The north east of England is awash with knitwear by Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Gant, nothing wrong with that but, the frozen northerner would argue that there are two British businesses, John Smedley and Alan Paine, that are somewhat shamefully overlooked in this region, this is an embarrassment because both firms produce beautiful knitwear, so much so that they must be championed by yours truly. John Smedley has been around for a long time, founded in 1784 this Derbyshire based company has over the years turned out an unrivalled range of magnificent knitwear. Using cashmere, extra fine merino wool and Sea Island cotton in their products, their merchandise is always of the highest quality, which has led to them gaining a notable reputation around the world. The company has always stayed true to their beliefs, resisting the temptation to diversify into other areas of the clothing industry, they have quite often cleverly combined with various other British companies such as Pretty Green and Rouleur to create some really interesting pieces of work. Although John Smedley figures highly on the frozen northerner’s clothing list, I have to say that I love Alan Paine knitwear with the same reverence; despite the fact they have over the last few years expanded into country clothing which I do not agree with, however, I am sure they have made this move to benefit the firm. Alan Paine came into knitwear game much later than John Smedley having been established in 1907 nonetheless, they quickly built a reputation as purveyors of fine knitwear; their products were so popular that George Mallory even took some to Nepal in his failed attempt to conquer Everest in 1924. Finding these goods locally may prove difficult, although Fenwick’s in Newcastle have a small John Smedley franchise with a limited selection, as do Jules B in Jesmond. Finding Alan Paine knitwear in the north east is even harder but Palmers in Jesmond is a probably your best bet, (but if know of more shops stocking these products please let me know). Last year John Smedley opened a new flagship store on Jermyn Street in London which is very nice, but lacks the intimacy of their smaller Brook Street store which I much prefer. Alan Paine have only one shop to my knowledge which is in Rome, however, there are a few independent retailers around the country that stock their wares, you can use the internet to purchase these items of clothing but as I have reported in previous blogs this is no way to buy clothes. So with spring just around the corner start thinking about knitwear and think about John Smedley and Alan Paine.
I recently came across the classic British comedy film “I’m All Right Jack” featuring amongst others Peter Sellers, produced by the hugely talented Boulting brothers, the movie has some very interesting characters, none is more fascinating than a somewhat despicable fellow called Bertram Tracepurcel (beautifully played by Dennis Price) he could be best described as a being a bit of a bounder. But having said that he is a bounder that is milking the system, not at all like the type of bounder we are going to talk about. So what is a bounder or for that matter a cad, looking for a little bit of clarification on the subject, the Cambridge English dictionary describes such a person “ as a man who behaves badly or dishonestly especially towards women”. Uncle Bertie was clearly dishonest, but not to women only to the companies he could swindle, real cads and bounders fictitious or real, are chaps that attract rich women in their droves and once they have fleeced these poor females, they tend to abscond to pastures new to find a new unsuspecting target with sole intention of bleeding them dry. What makes these unscrupulous fellows attractive to the opposite sex? well they are or have been good looking, (although this is not always the case look on further than ex Tory ministers Alan Clark and Cecil Parkinson) someone along the lines of former cavalry officer James Hewitt who in his heyday cut quite a dashing figure, treating Princess Diana very badly, therefore he has to be up there with the best cads around. It may also be someone from a sporting back ground like Gottfried Von Cramm who allegedly after marrying Barbara Hutton spent their wedding night in the arms of his male love, not nice. Bond creator Ian Fleming would also fall into the cad and bounder category and was noted for not treating the fairer sex very well, which may have heavily influenced the way his hero James Bond treats his woman, however I prepared to overlook Bond’s treatment of woman as he doing it for Queen and country rather than just for his own selfish gains. Following the bond route the silver screen is full of cads and bounders, my research has shown that they have a tendency to have attended a good public school or university haven fallen on hard times, they are unable to bear the thought of working for a living, so they tend to seize upon the opportunity of living off rich women. Despite the fact they are broke, they dress immaculately, normally drive a sports car and appear to have a flat in a rather elegant area somewhere like Mayfair in England, all of which normally true apart from the fact that none of these items are being paid for. These cads are perhaps someone a bit like another Dennis Price character Louis Mazzini, who toys with affections of two ladies while he is in the process slaughtering an entire aristocratic family, making him somewhat of a serial cad (see Kind Hearts and Coronets). On the other hand you could be like Tony Wendice who is suave and immaculately groomed,but wants nothing more than to see his wife murdered, so he can live off her wealth of which he will be the sole recipient upon her demise, the cad hasn’t even the decency to kill her himself having the cheek to hire someone kill her rather than do himself (see Dial M for Murder). I have circled the piranha fish bowl in which these fellows swim in attempt to find the best one I can up with and surprisingly my favourite cad and bounder is an American fictitious chap called Monte Baragon from the novel and movie Mildred Peirce. Monte Baragon (you would have though from his name alone Mildred would stay well clear) charms and marries Mildred spends her hard earned money with gay abandon, regardless of the fact that he despises Mildred, her business and her background. When Monte quickly grows weary of Mildred who has spent a fortune refurbishing his mansion and beach house, the philandering Baragon turns his attention to his stepdaughter Veda (Mildred’s daughter) who is easily seduced by his charm. Baragon has both mom and daughter on a string and is having his cake and eating it yet he is still not happy, what do guys like this want, the fact that Baragon ends dead is probably the only way he finds happiness. Cads and Bounders are rare breed of men, they will always be around and more often than not they will continue to flourish, so if you are a well-heeled single lady of independent means sitting in a swish cocktail bar sipping a very dry martini, just remember the good looking chap casting his eye in your direction may try to seduce you but he just may be planning to murder you!!.