Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Justine Picardie at The Oxford Literary Festival

After such a wonderful talk by Bettany Hughes, we scurried through the cloisters and the beautiful Tom Quad, to the Blue Boar Quad. We were in a modern mini lecture theatre to hear Justine Picardie talk about her 2011 biography of Coco Chanel. I have been an admirer of Ms Picardie's writing for some time, and I thought the subject would appeal to Isobel. I was right, Justine talked with such skill about the life of the extraordinary Chanel, aided by many stunning photographs. Her account of how she wrote the book was so interesting and towards the conclusion of the talk, she made it intensely personal. Justine spoke of the importance of fashion, memory and family ties and to my amazement and Bel's utter horror, I could feel tears welling up. The lady in front of us was sobbing into her tissue. To me it was the thought that memories of your mother and grandmother are tied up with memories of their outfits and perfume and then I thought of the generations, how my mum sewed or knitted clothes for me with skill and love, and how now Bel and I have fun together shopping for outfits.
We queued to have our books signed afterwards. Bel had the Chanel biography and I had "My Mother's Wedding Dress". Justine was lovely to Bel, she said, "Ooh, a quilted jacket, VERY Chanel" ( mine actually, just call us Kate and Carole Middleton!) and chatted about Bel's ambition to one day have a Chanel handbag. In her book she wrote, " here's to your first Chanel!". I admitted I had horribly embarrassed my daughter by finding her talk so moving. She wrote in my book, "To Ellen, who understands the threads between mother and daughter". Perfect.

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