Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thought for the day

"Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you." Oscar Wilde.

As seen at Clapham North underground station- some tube stations seem to favour thought for the day more than others, I always like seeing them, they're always good thoughts.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Good things about London: The booking office bar at The St Pancras Hotel

Recipe for unwinding after a long day at work- go to the St Pancras Hotel. Find a well appointed seat at The Booking Office bar. Order a gin fix. Repeat until relaxed.

gin fix:

Sugar, soda water, gin, the juice and peel of a lemon, garnish with seasonal berries

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cloth House

When I was little most large towns had a fabric shop and now, even with the resurgence of interest in crafts, they are something of a rarity. Like bookshops that were once essential to your local life haberdashery shops have become something you travel to a larger town for- if you're lucky. The passing of the high street is often spoken about but I think it's hard to put into words how it feels when you go back to your own place and see it become homogeneous and feeling powerless to help.

Happily in London fabric shops survive- as any schoolgirl who lives near a John Lewis knows they continue to support selling fabric, thread and more and of course lovely Liberty is heaven for all craft and sewing lovers. In terms of stand alone stores Berwick street in Soho has lots of lovely doors to walk through and my particular favourite is the branch of Cloth House towards Oxford street. This window is one their recent displays, they always have lovely offerings featuring vintage sewing machines and lovely cloth- I can't wait to see what they do for Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dior: Maison de Parfums

The Dior Maisons De Parfums is located exclusively in Selfridges in London but it feels like visiting Maison Dior itself (I imagine, I am yet to go to heaven in Paris).

We were invited to sit down on the classic dove grey Dior chaise with a glass of champagne and some serious coffee tables books about Dior, to relax and acclimatise to our new surroundings.

I had decided to take a good friend who is getting married next year and wanted to pick a new scent for the day as I thought my perfume schizophrenia would be too much of a challenge for a service designed to choose one signature or occasion perfume for you. We began by discussing the perfumes my friend already enjoys and wears- we concluded that the feminine florals she enjoys (Benefit's Maybe Baby and Dior's own Miss Dior Cherie) were in her opinion to relaxed for a wedding and that her beau found them a little sweet and she wanted to find something new and sophisticated that he would appreciate.

With a brief and a style in mind we started the best part of any fragrance quest- the sniffing! The extremely helpful and I must say very knowledgeable lady who works exclusively for the Maisons De Parfums gave us approximately five scents to begin with- which is a reasonable number I felt.

My friend (and I) had strong reactions to these smells as they were obviously chosen to be quite distinct from each other. This process allowed us all to understand that despite thinking she enjoyed sweet florals the scents my friend was actually choosing in a blind sniffing session were sophisticated but still relatively light florals like J'Adore and Forever and Ever Dior as opposed to the heavier scents like Diorissimo- more classic masculine or citrus and aldehyde leaning scents like Diorella were firmly rejected (as I think we all expected they would be- but it is fascinating watching someone test scents for the first time without thinking about the packaging and marketing of them).

After a quick sip of champagne and a waft of coffee beans to refresh us we moved on to a narrowed down selection in the family of preferred fragrances. The perfumes are always initially tested blind but then their names and some of the history is revealed and it's interesting how that can change or support some one's reaction to a fragrance.

Ultimately we took home a beautiful bottle of Forever and Ever Dior- a scent my friend had a strong initial liking for and which does come in one of Dior's grandest, most special boxes. It's a lovely choice for a bride I think and it is different from perfumes she has worn in the past but still very much in character for her. She loved the evening at the Maison De Parfums and interesting so did I, even with my knowledge and being so used to trying perfume they managed to make the experience very enjoyable and to teach me things I didn't know. I was also give some lovely samples of perfumes I had enjoyed trying which I thought was a nice touch (hello New Look 1947, you smell extremely good).

Friday, 11 November 2011


You can live in the present and be modern and remember the past.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Arran Aromatics: After the Rain

Turnberry in Scotland is a dream of a hotel. From the moment your foot steps over the threshold you feel wrapped up in a cosy, stylish blanket of comfort. You can sit by roaring fires eating butter tablet and reading, get straight into your bed with so many soft, downy pillows you may never get out, run a hot bath and then recline for what feels like forever or head straight out to the wild beach to get invigoratingly wind, salt and sea swept before you do all of that.

Scent is a strange thing- when you ask people about their favourite smells they don't generally say 'Chanel Number 5' or 'Miss Dior' they say hot tarmac and bacon sandwiches, both great smells that you would never want to wear as a perfume even if someone could recreate them well.

Rain though is a smell that is often mentioned which perfumers can and do try and replicate. Apres L'Ondee is one of my favourite perfumes of all time and is of course named for the scent of a place after rain, or a shower- that's a summer shower though, over a garden perhaps and is more about atmosphere, a smile after tears, than about the scent of a place.

It rained when I was in Scotland, not all the time and it didn't make me sad- I wanted it to rain- I love that smell, I adore wild seas and all the things I've mentioned above, getting a bit wet knowing you can go indoors to a steaming cauldron of a bath- or just never going outside and watching the weather storming around you as you stay warm and content inside (under a blanket).

I did go outside though, chiefly to smell the scent of rain and sea- salt, some humidity, the musk of sand and reeds breathing or being kissed by a sweeping mist from the sea. Amazingly I found that very smell in a bottle inside the shop at Turnberry- the perfume is Arran Aromatics After the Rain. I can report it is as good as it sounds and also very good value and made in Scotland, which must be a good thing.

Beach image courtesy of Turnberry, bottle courtesy of Arran Aromatics. After the Rain and all Arran Aromatics products are available from their website.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Review of a book that is not new: I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson

I recently had a bibliotherapy session (via the The School of Life) which was very enlightening. Via the process of writing about my favourite books and thinking about books that have made an impression on my life- and those that haven't- I realised several things. Firstly that I have a terrible habit of loving one book by a writer and then being scared that the next one won't be so good and not reading anymore (unless they are George Orwell who I trust absolutely). Secondly that I don't tend to read the current 'thing' and thirdly that when I read the current 'thing' a few years later I tend to like it.

So I come to I don't know how she does it. A book I had never read- partly because I avoid pink covers (which I also realised I should not) and partly because I am not a working Mother of two and didn't necessarily think I would relate.

I was completely wrong, I really liked the character of Kate Reddy. As I say I am not married, do not have children and do not run a house but I completely relate to the feeling of being exhausted, not quite doing everything properly and also the need and want to make a wage. As I say although Kate was more successful than I am in terms of her career and arguable her personal life she seemed like friend not foe. I particularly liked the affirmation that she wanted to be a successful woman partly to give her daughter an example but also for herself.

Now of course success doesn't have to mean being in the boardroom and Kate goes on a journey in the book that I think is quite realistic- because you can't have it all. In the film I think the journey is far less believable, it would be wonderful if we really could be amazing at our careers and work 9-5 with a lunch break and time to have our hair done and go to sports days but it doesn't happen on my planet. More and more as I get older I think it is going to extremely difficult for women to have a career and a family and do both well- it's difficult for men too, of course, but not as difficult.

On that subject I loved that the men in Kate's life were real and well drawn. There is the standard city idiot but also a boss who makes the right decisions for his company and member of staff in the end. Her husband is a great man but he's not perfect because no one is- and her business partner is also an interesting and believable person.

So if like me you sometimes live under a rock when it comes to best sellers and if like me you sometimes wonder how on earth we might approach being women today then I actually recommend this book- it's light but it's good, it became my great friend.

Finally I wondered, as I always do, what perfume Kate Reddy might wear- because busy as she is I think Kate would find time to spritz- I decided she would wear Coco Chanel- classic, proper and improper, seductive but ok with a suit- a perfume for all occasions which she needs and a perfume you dream of owning when you're young.