The iconic tartan and sport

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng () - March 21, 2010 - 12:00am

You outfit Roald Amundsen in 1911 when he’s the first man to reach the South Pole, and three years later, outfit the first expedition to cross Antarctica. During World War I, on commission by the War Office, you practically invent the “trench coat” and utilize the now iconic tartan check pattern as the coat’s lining.

Established in 1856 by a draper’s apprentice named Thomas Burberry, Burberry is now one of the most recognized British luxury fashion houses. Back in the early ‘70s, whenever I traveled with my late mother to London, one of our stops would be the Burberry shop on the Haymarket, and little did I know that the establishment had been standing there since 1891. While the house is known for its clothing, fragrances and fashion accessories. and there’s the importance the British always put on tradition and legacy, this is coupled with a gust of fresh air and immediacy — a gust that allows Burberry to remain contemporary and “young.” Exemplified by creative director Christopher Bailey, Burberry remains a relevant fashion force today, despite its 159 years of existence.

Bailey, a young 38, was awarded an MBE in HM Queen Elizabeth II Birthday 2009 Honours List for Services to the Fashion Industry; and the “next big thing” on the line of quality Burberry products comes to us via their fragrances line — Burberry Sport for Women and Burberry Sport for Men. Inspired by the English seaside and countryside, these are fragrances that Bailey describe as “incredibly emotive... fresh and clean... reflect a real sense of nature and the outdoors.” The packaging is quite unique — technical, athletic and weatherproof — the red glass bottles wrapped in a modern rubberized case (white in the case of Sport for Women, and black when For Men). There’s even a red rubber Burberry embossed wristband, which fits on the exterior packaging and can be used as an accessory.

As for the scents: For Women is a zesty floral fragrance with top notes of mandarin, ginger and sea salt, floral heart notes of magnolia, honeysuckle and petitgrain, and solar notes of musk and cedarwood. The For Men is basically a woody citrus; head notes of ginger, grapefruit and wheatgrass, heart notes of red ginger and juniper berries, and bottom notes of amber, cedarwood and musk. And given the emphasis on quality, while the scents are vibrant and sporty, they really last —unlike other fragrances that are distinct upon application, yet evaporate or dissipate quickly.

Dealing with deities

Whether with humor, pathos or in thriller fashion, these novels all take us on excursions into the world of the Gods, the Hereafter, the Church, and Religion/Zealotry. What remains consistent is the quality of the writing and the fertile imaginations of our authors.

The Infinities by John Banville (available at National Bookstore): A poet at heart, John Banville’s The Sea won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and he is often characterized as an elegant, fastidious and exacting writer. His passages are often dense, extraordinarily textured, making him not the easiest of reads. But there are shafts of humor within all those words, and The Infinities is one of his “lighter” romps in the Fields of Death and Tragedy. Adam is in a coma and with his family by his side, our narrator, the god Hermes, takes us on an excursion of Adam’s life and how he has affected those around him. There’s even Zeus lurking in the background, and a sudden appearance by Pan in human form. A challenging, but ultimately, rewarding read; vintage Banville.

Hell by Robert Olen Butler (available at National Bookstore): This is writing as high wire act, and us deciding whether the author passes with flying colors or slips, and ends up on “terra firma.” Butler imagines a contemporary Hell, populated by almost everyone who has passed through the public’s radar, and utilizes imaginary TV newscaster Hatcher McCord to be our guide/protagonist. He’s in love with the headless Anne Boelyn, who’s still in love with Henry VIII. There are vignettes that feature President Bush and Obama, J. Edgar Hoover, the Clintons, Hitler and Stalin, the Gibbs brothers of Bee Gees fame, and personalities like these just keep popping up. It’s satire and tragedy all rolled up in one book, but does it always work? Enjoyable, with some rough patches!

Contract With God by Juan Gomez-Jurado (available at National Bookstore): Father Anthony Fowler, Catholic priest, ex-CIA and covert member of the Vatican’s Holy Alliance. He’s back as protagonist of Jurado’s latest. A Nazi war criminal has been in hiding up to the present day, and in his possession is a candle covered in fine filigree gold. Inside this candle is a purported map to the Ark of the Covenant. A reclusive billionaire and a terrorist cell are both interested in finding out if there’s any truth to the map; and off we go to the Jordanian desert. This is an action thriller of a novel, and it’s tightly constructed with the emphasis on the action. The translation from Spanish is somewhat clumsy, but one can’t fault the premise and quick pace. A good summer read.

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