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Zigazig-ha!

No one knew what the phrase meant but the band that coined it would change the landscape of pop forever.  Who am I talking about, the Spice Girls of course!

The five straight talking girls burst on to the pop scene in July 1996 with their debut single Wannabe which stayed number one for seven weeks.  I was a broke thirteen year old, attempting to record their Top of the Pops performance of the song onto a blank cassette tape while flushing with embarrassment as my Dad announced about Mel B ‘I wouldn’t mind her boots under my bed!’

Spice girls

The Spice Girls were a girl band who embraced individuality with their five alter egos Scary, Ginger, Posh, Baby and Sporty.  They were something teenagers of the nineties could look up to with their girl power philosophy.  It was a new modern feminism.  It taught girls to believe in themselves and take control of their lives as well as the importance of solidarity with female friends.  They loved to make a statement at every opportunity – who can forget Ginger Spice pinching Prince Charles’ bum at the Royal Variety or that Union Jack dress at the Brit Awards!

Over twenty years later, it would appear their popularity hasn’t diminished with people last weekend, rushing to announce on social media that they have secured tickets for their comeback tour next year.  I never saw them tour in their heyday but did go to their 2008 reunion tour.  For me this time round isn’t going to be the same as they are only touring as a foursome, with Victoria too busy on her fashion line.

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This year I visited SpiceUp, an exhibition about the Spice Girls at the Business Design Centre, Islington London, with my sister-in-law.  Now me being me, I always have to get into the theme and dressed in a denim mini from Oasis, a Spice Girls t-shirt from their 2008 reunion tour and platform shoes from New Look, with a mini backpack also from New Look and Union Jack ribbons in my hair.

The exhibition is a collection of costumes worn by the Spice Girls over the years on stage and in TV appearances as well as extensive memorabilia.  It’s creator is Alan Smith Allison, who started collecting memorabilia aged fifteen.  It takes you through their many albums and singles and even includes some items and costumes from their solo careers.  The Spice Bus from the film Spice World, released in 1997, was the star of the show.  I remember Mum and Dad getting me the video of the film which came in a celebratory tin.

I really enjoyed Viva Forever, the musical of 2013, that critics were very critical of and closed early due to financial losses.  There was some merchandise from this on display.

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Some of the costumes, especially the shoes were unbelievably outlandish and surprisingly most of them looked fairly cheaply made, although there were some designer pieces.  I was disappointed that Geri’s Brit Awards Union Jack dress wasn’t part of the exhibition.  I remember going to a Spice Girls themed birthday party where the birthday girl wore a replica of that dress.

Pop merchandise for the group took off in a way it had for no other band before or since.  They launched channel five and endorsed Pepsi, Chupa Chups, Impulse deodorant and Walkers crisps to name a few.  Their faces appeared on everything from collectable photos to dolls, to duvets!  At the end of 1997, it was estimated they had earned over £300 million in marketing deals that year.  The exhibition even had Pepsi cans with the ring pulls missing, which fans (including me) collected to get a special single – Step to me.

Despite being a young fan who idolised Geri Halliwell, I didn’t think I had that much memorabilia, but as we walked around the exhibition, it appeared I owned rather more than I first thought!  “I had that” became a well used phrase.

It was a great blast from the past and it would appear that fashion wise, the Spice Girls aren’t the only thing from the nineties having a come back.  Checked suits as worn by Cher in the nineties classic film Clueless have flooded the high street this autumn.  I lived in my Benetton sweatshirt in the nineties and it appears sweatshirts are the jumper of choice once again this season.  I have two lovely ones from Oasis and one from Joy.  Even Buffalo platform trainers have tried to make a comeback!

If you have enjoyed this trip done memory lane,  it’s not too late to visit the exhibition and Spice up your life!  The exhibition is showing at Intu, Watford now, until 31 December 2018 – say you’ll be there!

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Sailing in luxury

My fast becoming favourite museum, the V&A, is currently running an exhibition entitled Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, until 17 June 2018.

The main draw for me to visit this exhibition was the fact that a piece of the Titanic was included, which has not been seen in Europe since the ship was built. I must confess to having somewhat of an obsession with the fated Titanic’s maiden voyage – not least because of the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio which was released in 1998. As an impressionable, young 14-year-old – I idolised Leonardo and wanted to be as elegant as Kate Winslet. I cried bucket loads when I saw the film at the cinema. Anyone who has seen the film, cannot forget the moment that Rose, laying on a part of the ship and floating in the atlantic, has to let go of Jack. This is what sprung to mind when I saw the wooden panel fragment from the first class lounge of Titanic, the largest remaining fragment from the ship, which was found floating in the Atlantic and is on loan from a museum in Nova Scotia, Canada.  It is in fact what the film’s set designers modelled the floating refuge on.

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I was pleasantly surprised that the rest of the exhibition enthralled me just as much.  The exhibition is very much a show of the luxury that could be found on these ships all those years ago.  People were supposed to forget they were even at sea, as the great ships aimed to replicate first class hotels.

With the introduction of passenger flights in the 1960’s, Ocean liner trade declined significantly until it ceased in 1986 except for transatlantic crossings by the Cunard line shipping company. The cruise trade has boomed however.

The lines are blurred between descriptions of cruise ships and liners, and often the terms are used interchangeably. Liners had higher fuel consumption and fewer windows as their use was to transfer passengers from one point to another whereas cruise ships follow circular routes, sometimes with no stops.

Cruises nowadays are of course more of a relaxed affair – no longer are you expected to dress for dinner every night for example.  While this is good as it opens up the demographic, I can’t help but mourn an era where luxury ruled supreme; especially given that I have always had champagne taste and beer money!

The first room of the exhibition concentrates mainly on poster advertising for the liners.  You then move into a room where various interiors from different ships are mocked up – giving you a feel of the attention to detail, when they were designed with elaborate wooden carvings.  The next room was my favourite as it was very much focused on the fashion and the glamour.

Having enjoyed the exhibition, my Mum and I decided to sample a piece of the luxury, offered by London today.  We went for afternoon tea at Number Sixteen – a high-end hotel in South Kensington.  We enjoyed prosecco, sandwiches, scones and some delightful cakes in the orangery of the mid-Victorian white terrace, looking out on the beautiful private garden.

No girls day out would be complete without a visit to the shops, so we hopped onto the tube to Knightsbridge and visited the home of luxury, Harrods and browsed all the many delights I would love to be able to afford.

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‘It’s so much more friendly with two’

Like me, I’m sure many of you grew up with the stories of three great bears – Rupert, Paddington and Winnie-the-Pooh.

AA Milne himself could not have predicted the popularity and enduring love of Winnie- the-Pooh when he created him, based on a Harrods bear his son, Christopher Robin was given on his first birthday.

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In 1926, Milne published his first collection of stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, who he based on other nursery toys.  The stories were brought to life by EH Shepherd’s illustrations.  Milne and Shepherd had worked together previously on the magazine, Punch but their collaboration on Winnie-the-Pooh produced some of the nations best-loved children’s books and is what they are most famous for.

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Reproductions of Christopher Robin’s toys used as props in the film Goodbye Christopher Robin (NB Owl and Rabbit were purely figments of Milne’s imagination and not actual toys)

Milne who was a Londoner, bought Cotchford Farm on the edge of the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, as a holiday home in 1925 and the area provided the perfect backdrop for the stories, referred to as The Hundred Acre Wood.

Winnie-the-Pooh was always one of my favourite characters and I was often taken to Pooh Corner, a shop in Hartfield, Sussex, mainly of course as it was en route to my fathers favourite place, the Bluebell Railway.  This shop, opened in 1978 and is dedicated to all things Pooh.

A short distance from the shop, you can indulge in a game of the famous Pooh sticks yourself at the bridge where Christopher Robin and his father played the simple game.  The bridge was built in 1907 and then partly rebuilt in 1979 and later completely restored thanks in part to funding by Disney, who had of course by then acquired the rights to the characters and dropped the hyphens in Pooh’s name.

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If you are feeling energetic, why not also visit the Enchanted Place, where there is a plaque is dedicated to Milne and Shepherd.

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After all that walking, as Pooh would say, it is time for a little something.  Head back to Pooh Corner for a traditional English cream tea.

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Last year, the film Goodbye Christopher Robin was released, once again bringing Winnie the Pooh to the fore of popular culture.  If the film is to be believed, it is rather ironic that the characters and stories that made so many people’s childhood’s happy, had the opposite effect on Milne’s own son, Christopher Robin.  He took none of his father’s royalties.

The V&A museum is currently running an exhibition, Winnie-the-Pooh – exploring a classic, until 8 April.  I visited the exhibition with my friend.  It is cleverly designed to appeal to young and old, just like the characters themselves.  The collection includes original drawings and some of the families photos, along with a trail for children to follow with lift up flaps to discover things, a slide and a table with pencils for them to unleash their own creativity.  One of the main things I learnt was where the name Winnie-the-Pooh came from.  Winnie was the name given to a bear at London Zoo whom Christopher Robin visited, while Pooh was the name he had given to a swan he fed.

At a time when war was a recent memory for many, Winnie the Pooh transported readers into a magical world where the only threat was time.  The characters transcend time however, remaining as popular with adults as they are with children.  The stories have been translated into many languages and Pooh, for a bear with very little brain, provides some great philosophical quotes.

The exhibition includes a large array of merchandise, including a dress from a collaboration with Cath Kidston in 2016 and a tea set given to, the now Queen, in 1928.  The most recent collaboration is with Pandora, as part of their Disney charm collection and my husband kindly bought me one for Valentines Day this year.

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I am sure Pooh will continue to enchant lots of children for many years to come and always remember ‘you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think’ and of course when all else fails, ‘it’s so much more friendly with two.’