The Young Ones, Summer Holiday and Wonderful Life are films that have gained significance over the years, almost like a time capsule of England just before Beatlemania (or rather, in the case of Wonderful Life, resolutely ignoring it). Their very artlessness reveals so much of the times in which they were made. They are also enormous fun, as I discovered when someone gave me the DVD set as a present.
The Young Ones interestingly captures the contemporary cult of the youth club--which seems mystifying in retrospect, but, according to my father, was widespread, despite the rather boring reality of youthful doings within the no-adults sanctum, which certainly did not extend to mounting a star-studded talent show. The film contains the charming Nothing's Impossible dance routine, which references space exploration in order to support its, er, argument, and captures the (in retrospect, slightly daft) optimism of the new technocratic age. However, the richest of the three films are definitely the two set abroad, Summer Holiday and Wonderful Life. Summer Holiday sees Cliff and the Shadows driving a refurbished old London bus all over Europe (vaguely accompanied by Ron Moody as a French mime), and has a paper-thin plot involving an American stowaway. It unselfconsciously reflects the greater openness of post-war youth culture to influences from both sides --America via records and radio, Europe via cheap (in this case, very cheap!) travel-- and the eagerness for novelty of an outward-facing young working class population. The European-ness thus evoked often lapses into unfortunate stereotype (at one point, Cliff warbles about a desire to wear short leather trousers and dance to Strauss waltzes, while the less said about the appalling Yugoslav bull-whip wedding sequence, the better), but it contrasts sharply with the more insular pre-war mentality.
By far the most entertaining of the films, though, is Wonderful Life. Set in the Canary Islands, where our gang somehow (and, one senses, inevitably) ends up working on a movie set, it must boast the most bonkers script of any film ever made. A large part of it seems to involve a desperate hunt for banana groves, during which the boys succumb to heat exhaustion and hallucinate that they are tap-dancing on a Thames barge in the (perhaps unintentionally?) hilarious H-O-M-E Home! number, which contains vigorous avowals from Cliff that he does not mean New York, or Paris, or (fill in the blanks).... These films were attempts to imitate the various Elvis vehicles. In this they signally (and thankfully) failed--the leading man was too nice to pull it off. They are to be treasured for themselves, as relics of a more innocent, hopeful time: when Europe was a box of delights on one's very doorstep, rock and roll was the most exciting thing imaginable, and, perhaps most importantly, one could address one's friends as 'hep cats' without irony.--Isabel Taylor
I've worked my way through another fine crop of products recently, many of them focusing on natural, organic ingredients. A number are slightly lighter products that are perfect for summer wearing, when one wants something a bit less heavy on one's skin.
Firstly, three good facial washes: Botanicals's Cleansing Melt, Body Botanics's Revive Skin Wash, and Merumaya's Luxury Facial Wash. The latter has a pleasantly old-fashioned soapy odour and a good cleaning action that leaves skin squeaky clean and not too dry. The Revive Skin Wash from Body Botanics is made with aloe vera, soapwort and essential oils of lavender and geranium - hence the utterly gorgeous, floral smell. Although Body Botanics products are designed for the body, they work perfectly well on the more delicate facial area. This had a good cleaning effect, although I found it really difficult to get out of the small travel bottle it came in and the necessity of leaving it upside down at all times resulted in the cap falling in half! My favourite facewash of the three was Botanicals's Cleansing Melt. Botanicals is an award-winning company based in Waltham on the Wolds in Melton Mowbray, and whose products are stated to be 100% pure and natural, and certified organic by the Soil Association. The Melt is made with rose and camellia, which impart a lovely smell. Although it has the texture of a balm, it nevertheless makes a superb cleanser, and one smoothes it over one's face before washing off to leave skin feeling clean but also nourished and protected. After cleansing, you might want to use an exfoliator or scrub to further loosen and slough off any dead skin. I've been trying the exfoliating cream from London's Ayurveda Pura. It is very creamy on the skin, so a good, gentle option (but not so great for heavy-duty exfoliation if your skin is really in a bad way!) A more thorough exfoliating cream comes from Kelly Edwards Skincare, with fruit, flower, and herb oils, a pleasant, floral aroma, and an effective action. Botanicals' Skin Polish, though, was possibly my favourite of the tested facial exfoliators and scrubs: kind but extremely efficacious, and with a lovely texture and smell.
You might prefer to use a mask instead of a scrub, and so could try Ayurveda Pura's TriDoshic Re-Balance cream mask, a thick, creamy, warming treatment that deeply feeds and moisturises skin. Or, if your skin is in need of lifting and tightening, you could try Faith Lift's Mask (from Tibby Oliver, based in the small rural village of Blackrod in Lancashire). One might be forgiven for believing this to be honey, with its sweet smell and runny texture, although the main ingredient is apparently an herbal extract that consists primarily of complex polysaccharides and associated glycoproteins. The mask has a strong tightening effect and immediately lifts and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. The mask has a complementary moisturising cream, an immensely rich and thick product with a slightly but pleasingly old-fashioned smell, which leaves skin feeling very nourished and hydrated. Toning might come next in a skincare routine. Whilst the Kelly Edwards alcohol-free toner with flower and herb waters is pleasantly refreshing, the odour is a little odd, and so I prefer Botanicals' Skin Tonic with rose and camellia, which, with its pleasant aroma, is nicely refreshing, and very gentle and nourishing on the skin. Another good possibility is the Ayurveda Pura Re-Juvenating Skin Toner: an energising toner with a hint of hamamelis (witchhazel). (It might here be noted that Ayurveda Pura also do herbal teas, which can be recommended as well - from their spicy "Re-fresh" through the invigorating "Re-energise" tea--with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper and fennel--to "De-stress," a more citrusy tea with orange peel as well as cardamom and cloves.)
It is becoming increasingly popular to smooth on a serum before moisturising, and Kelly Edwards is again a good choice for this, with their Florence Selina Rejuvenating Serum. This superb product contains omega plant oils, vitamins and anti-oxidants. It has a gorgeous floral perfume and comes as a lovely, light oil that is easily absorbed and makes skin feel and look radiant. Finally (for the face at least) the all-important moisturiser. One of the best I've come across is the Elizabeth's Daughter range. This line (which contains 95% natural ingredients, and absolutely no parabens, sulphates or petrochemicals) was created for younger skin, although all skin ages can benefit from the products. The Haute Couture box is most gorgeously presented with ribbons, a beautifully smart box that one is loathe to throw away. Elizabeth's Daughter's Daily Moisturiser is a wonderfully light moisturiser that leaves skin feeling nourished and protected throughout the day. Green People's "Vita min fix" rich nourishing 24-hour cream features avocado, seaweed and evening primrose, and has a delicate evening primrose scent. It is a gentle, kind cream that moisturises and feeds the skin during the day and over night, and is certainly a moisturiser that I can highly recommend, as is Botanicals' Facial Balm, a nourishing, natural face balm, hand-whipped with organic shea butter and cold-pressed jojoba, apricot, camellia and grapeseed oils, and rose. This smells lovely and glides smoothly over the face. Although it leaves the skin slightly oily, this is a nourishing and protecting feeling, and not one to complain about! Kelly Edwards Skincare also has a couple of moisturising options, although I personally found both of these too heavy for my skin. The Florence Selina Moisturiser has plant oils, vitamins A, B and E, and neroli essential oil. The aroma is similar to Earl Grey tea, and in this rich, thick and just slightly cloying cream, a little goes a long way. The Floral Moisturiser contains rosehip, rice bran, calendula, vitamin E and Sea Buckthorn, and is another rich, thick cream, with a pleasant scent, but quite weighty on the skin. The last of my facial moisturiser recommendations is Willow's Light Day Cream. Willow products (including a Rose and Manuka Honey range) come beautifully packaged, making them a joy to receive and unwrap. The Rose and Manuka moisturiser is a light, organic product, packed with fruit and flower oils, and with manuka honey which is renowned for its benefits. It comes in an attractive pump bottle and moisturises well, leaving skin healthy and glowing, although it isn't terribly easily absorbed. If wrinkles are still visible after a careful morning regime, one serious rescue choice is Jane Iredale's Glow Time: Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream. This combines a foundation, concealer, moisturiser and sunscreen in one product, and you only need a tiny dab of it to cover your entire face in a thin glowing, protective sheen. Blemishes are completely disguised, pores and wrinkles are smoothed over and your skin looks radiant and flawless.
Another option to moisturisers is oils, and I find these particularly effective when applied at night (which also has the benefit that one does not then go around all day with a visibly oily visage!) I swear by argan oil, whether on my skin or hair, and Melvita's Argan Oil is a wonderfully restorative product that imparts nourishment and hydration to the skin. I use it each night and emerge with glowing skin in the morning, so this product comes highly recommended. Eye serums are also particularly good at night-time, as that especially delicate area around the eyes drinks them in deeply during sleep. Thea Organic Enriched Skincare has an Age Revival Purify and Renew Eye Serum, which I have found very effective in the form of a rich and nourishing serum which I use nightly. It contains aloe juice, rooibos tea, jojoba oil and vitamin E to help restore and regenerate.
I also apply hand creams before bed (finding that hand cream does not work well with computer keyboards, car steering wheels, or animals - the three things with which my hands are in pretty much constant contact all day). I have recently found five gems. Perhaps the most protective of these four is the (odourless) Martha Hill's Gardener's Cream, a superb, rich hand cream that restores moisture to dry and chapped skin (it works on the face and other dry areas of skin as well as the hands). Kelly Edwards Skincare also has a good option in its May Chang and Ylang Ylang hand cream (which also features cocoa butter, rice bran, calendula and vitamins E and A). This effective rich and thick hand cream also has a very pleasing aroma. Qsilica was a new range to me, but again is one that I can highly recommend, with good products, pleasing packaging and a strong brand image. Qsilica products include mineral silica, which is meant to "encourage a youthful glow," and the pleasant-smelling Strengthening Hand and Nail Cream also lists jojoba and cocoa butter amongst its ingredients, to hydrate and smooth. I found it a little greasy but also at the same time nourishing, while I also liked the slightly warming effect it seemed to have on my hands. From the same company comes the Paw Paw Rescue Ointment, a versatile cream for chapped lips, hands or any other areas of skin in need of moisturising and TLC. It boasts fresh fermented papaya fruit (paw paw) extract --hence the name, but as an ointment that could also deal with dry hands, the name takes on a rather adorable double meaning. The ointment itself is slightly greasy but works well. My favourite current find, however, is Natural Empathy's Luxury Natural Hand Lotion (and the best of the Natural Empathy products, in my opinion). This has a heady smell of lavender and leaves hands splendidly soft and silky. It is packed full of essential oils which seem to warm up hands as well as moisturise and protect them. Smooth liberally into hands and inhale deeply....
While on the subject of hands, if you're after a good hand wash and are keen on citrusy scents, finding some of the floral hand washes a little too sweet, then do look at the Littlecote Soap Company's G&T Lemongrass Scent Organic Hand and Body Wash. The Littlecote Soap company is based on a working farm in Buckinghamshire, and all products are ethical and natural. The Wash cleans well and has a very sharp grapefruit and lemon odour. Another important part of the body, often in need of extra care, is the neck. Skin Revival's Neck & Décolletage Nourishing Blend is an oil which consists of acai, goji, avocado, rose and jojoba oils and witch hazel, and which thoroughly nourishes, smoothes and hydrate delicate skin. The various ingredients also help to rejuvenate skin, have anti-inflammatory effects, and contain natural antioxidants to help eliminate free radicals. The oil is light and has a wonderful floral aroma. I've been using it before bed on my neck and have been gratified by glowing and healthy-looking and -feeling skin come the morning.
Lips also are prone to dryness, and Melvita again comes to the rescue with its Repairing Lip Balm. Look beyond the cardboard packaging and slightly awkward-to-use application, as the product itself is excellent: a nourishing lip balm which contains beeswax, shea butter and argan oil, which smells of honey, and feels gloriously comforting and repairing. One of the best body creams that I've tested recently is Nuage's Manuka Honey Body Lotion. An excellent body lotion, this is easily absorbed and smells appropriately honeyed and sweet. It feels a little sticky on application but then seeps into the skin, leaving it immensely soft and with no residual trace of stickiness. With its nourishing manuka honey, I can see this becoming a favourite! Other creams that I can recommend are the VITA-E cream, a moisturiser packed full of Vitamin E which also acts as a soother after sunburn (I found it too heavy and cloying for my face but used it on my body - it was especially good for ultra-dry patches), and the Littlecote Soap Company's G&T Lemongrass Scent Organic Hand and Body Lotion. This has, like the hand wash, quite a sharp citrusy smell (a little too sharp for me), but the lotion glides on beautifully, affording good cover and instantly making skin feel hydrated and refreshed even when it was previously extremely dry. This is a fantastic moisturiser, especially since the moisturised feeling lasted a good twenty-four hours. Perhaps the best of all, though, is Body Shop's Brazil Nut Body Butter, which is nothing short of miraculous. At first I was slightly put off by the very nutty smell and the slight stickiness on application, but I discovered that once the butter has been absorbed, it renders skin immensely soft. On repeated application I found my skin becoming as smooth and as soft as if I had just spent a week in a spa retreat having the most amazing treatments on a daily basis!
Of course, body cream should best be applied to skin that is already soft and exfoliated, and for that you can't get much better than Green People's Sugar Scrub. This nicely-presented product is absolutely superb--the best scrub I've tried for years. It has a wonderful, almost eucalyptus-like aroma and works well at sloughing off dead and old skin whilst at the same time providing a deeply rich and moisturising coating, thus leaving you smelling glorious and feeling deeply nourished and moisturised.--Em Marshall-Luck