Wednesday 30 March 2016

Your face lights up

I am a very sociable person who is fascinated by people- but who loves silence and time alone. I am aware that this may sound contradictory. 

I like the idea of mute salons, where you can go for haircuts, nail appointments and the like and they promise not to engage you in conversation if you make an appropriate signal. 

My dream salon seems to be very far from becoming a reality... So if I'm feeling quiet I take a book. I found myself in the local place early on a Sunday morning, last year in fact- and the genuinely lovely lady I was seeing asked me the stock 'what did you do this week' question?

Inside I sighed a little but she really was engaging- so I put down my thriller and started telling her in detail about who I had seen, where I had been, what I'd been doing. 

I chatted away and after a while my new friend stopped working, looked at me and smiled. I looked back, wondering why this interlude. She said 'you light up when you talk about this man, it is lovely to see'.

I tried to shrug it off as my general enthusiasm about the event we'd been to, but I think she saw through me. 

She is right of course, in that way strangers can be. 

Monday 11 January 2016

I wanna hold your hand

The westbound Piccadily line is not usually the epicentre of romance in London. There is much that is daydream inducing about trains- sleepers to say Cornwall or Scotland- and the tube has moments and stolen glances certainly, but post Christmas sale shoppers and tourists do not make my heart swell in general and on the Piccadilly line in particular (though they do sometimes make my blood pressure rise).

In the week after Christmas I ran onto an underground train bound for Heathrow, and saw an older couple sitting down. I didn't think a huge amount about them except that they were both very well turned out (well dressed older people make me feel enormously happy, I have no idea why). I was engaged in the slightly tricky task of not breaking a large glass  star Christmas ornament I had bought in Whole Foods by accident whilst I was waiting in the (long) queue. It was New Year's Eve so I also had emergency forgotten dinner party food items and I was feeling a bit stressed about getting home quickly. 

When I reach Hammersmith I have to change onto the District line- and as I changed over so did the couple. It was only then I noticed they'd obviously been shopping. As you'd expect the gentleman was carrying the bags, except for one which his wife was holding tightly;   it was tucked inside her coat to protect it from the (seemingly constant) rain.

When we reached Turnham Green the couple got up and her bag became visible, it was from Rigby and Peller- bra makers to the Queen no less. So Mr and Mrs Piccadily line had been lingerie shopping on New Year's Eve- a younger man and I exchanged knowing smiles. 

I hope when I'm in my seventies my husband takes me lingerie shopping and holds my hand as we walk home. 

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Love and the kind of woman I don't want to be

I took a train north this week and was sat with an older couple (I much prefer to sit alone of course and work/ feed the social media habit I heard myself denying recently, madly as I do clearly love social media- well mostly, except all the endless cats and Kardashians). 

Older couples in love are one of my absolute favourite things, but older couples like this one are not. I'm afraid there is a certain kind of woman that reminds me of everything I don't want to be in a relationship- in fact this type of lady makes me really quite troubled. 

As I said the couple in question were at least 70 but I have witnessed this strange behaviour in women my own age in relationships where they feel they I think can get away with it- or worse where they think they're both happy. 

In this case of the 11.20 from Euston the husband had to endure being asked if he needed the toilet and told it was his snack time (he appeared to be completely sharp and read the Guardian from cover to cover so I don't think we can say this was for medical reasons). Some women just start talking to men in a really bossy, motherly over bearing way that I literally fear. I fear it because surely once toilet checks and snack time are in sex and romance must be out, but also to be less flippant how can you speak that way to someone who is the piece of Lego that fits with your piece? how do you spend so long looking and then end up making these conversations the way you spend your life with your spouse. 

I have also sat in Byron (other burger restaurants are available) quite recently and heard a 30 ish year old chap be told what he should eat. Really. He was told he should have a burger with salad not bun and that he'd like to share chips (clearly the courgette fries are the thing to have there but anyway). To be honest he looked like he could eat a bun and still fit in his jeans but the point isn't about waistline, it's about dignity. 

You could argue that the men in these scenarios could just leave or tell these women where to go with snack time or bunless burgers but they obviously don't. Why? 

I just wonder where these relationships go wrong and it makes me as sad as the 80 year olds holding hands on benches make me feel happy- which is to say very. 

Sunday 16 November 2014


This is a picture of my utterly faithful herringbone coat. It is hanging behind my bedroom door but when I finish writing this piece it will be going into a bag of garments for the clothes bank- and I feel a sense of betrayal to it, though I know it's just a coat. 

I've enjoyed wearing most of the clothes in the bag (of course we all make the odd strange purchase, like the floral t shirt I could never quite bring myself to wear that I hope will have a better life with a new owner). But for the most part I think when you put a dress that's seen some good times out dancing or a skirt you wore to work a few too many times out to pasture you feel a touch wistful but you know it's time to say goodbye (do men get this too? Do you think about the t shirt you wore when you kissed a beautiful girl before you put it aside?). 

The herringbone's time in truth came at least a year ago but it's ridiculously warm and so I found myself reaching for it in the depths of January, though I knew it was time for something new.

Poor herringbone has never really been beloved of my west London (in this case I mean west of about the Bethnal Green Road) friends and colleagues. Out East it's cool, tweed and pattern is favored and herringbone is I'm afraid so old and has seen so many gig floors, rubbed against so many tube doors and held so many newspapers under its arm that it looks vintage- not refurbed vintage, like I borrowed it from a great Aunt vintage. 

Since I've moved west herringbone has had a cooler reception shall we say, and even in soho where anything goes my boss did remark that my coat was very long serving! 

People used to save up for clothes and cherish them, lovingly polish shoes or admire a dress for weeks before saving enough to buy it. We don't have that relationship with what we wear anymore I don't think, as women- I think men do more actually and I'm not sure why but I like it, I don't care if I've seen a man in a shirt before if he looks good in it. 

So it's time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the perfect sized pockets that hold an i phone and an Oyster card, goodbye warm tweed, goodbye lapels that held a poppy pin without the constant stabbing into my flesh that happens with my Mac, goodbye being able to just throw your coat under a bench at a bar or concert or frankly anywhere and knowing that it'd be there later, patiently waiting- not dirty because it showed no marks and always warm and cosy and comforting, even when the night wasn't. 

Thursday 10 July 2014


There’s a second before a stranger speaks to you when you know what's going to happen. 

I saw her from a distance, it was a Saturday evening- it was dusk, the air was close and it was about to rain.

I was walking from the bus stop, the end of the route, to my house. I was content and apparently to the observer lost in my thoughts and the (loud) music in my headphones.

I'm rarely completely unaware of my surroundings and so it was that I may have looked in a daydream but I knew there was a man just behind me with a muzzled dog, a lady letting herself into the block of flats on the left and another lady walking quickly towards me, around 50 metres away to the right.

She was clearly a little agitated, lots of long what looked like wet blond hair was flapping against her white t-shirt and her stick thin legs were moving at a pace I could tell was just overstretching them. 

As she came closer she moved her body towards me, without yet crossing the road. I knew then she was going to pick me to speak to, but I still didn't know why. I was a young girl on my own perhaps? People say I look friendly, maybe that could be why or possibly I had something on my face?! All of these were options. I didn't feel threatened or concerned really, but I wasn't entirely happy about the situation either- perhaps instinctively because I'm usually quite prepared, even pleased, to speak to a passer by.

I tried to walk on but I had to concede and take my headphones out. The lady was older than me but dressed as my age. She clearly did have wet hair and it still hadn't rained. Odd I thought to myself. I also noticed she didn't have a bag, extra odd for a woman. 

She said she needed to get a bus (remember the bus stop is just behind me so okay).  She needed the fare (I think everyone anywhere near London in recent weeks has been made more than aware by TFL that they don't accept cash on buses now... So not sure here). Initially it was £2 then it became needing to get a bus and then a train to Aylesbury (lots of detail) and £15 she was looking for. 

I am tough minded but kind hearted, I listened on, she was clearly upset which is never pleasant, whatever the reason. She said her boyfriend had just thrown her out, she'd been in the shower (if all of this was a tale, the wet hair is still the curious part). She was trying to get to her Mother's.

Earlier that day I had been to see a film called Calvary- in central London- and I was now back out in Calvary of a kind, certainly beyond the city walls (zone 3 in tfl terms)

The film is about a good man who is a Priest. It very much provoked ideas In me about people who have a vocation to help others- and people who don't- and the price people sometimes pay for being good- and the choices they make, knowingly. I don't have the goodness of some but I gave the lady £15. I looked at her arms, there were no visible signs of drug use, I looked at her face and eyes, I don't think she was high, she looked affluent enough to not need to make up stories to get £15 but I was aware it probably was a story. On that day though I thought about it and I thought if I had cause to need £15 and no one would help me, what would I do, yes she could have gone to the police and no you shouldn't give strangers money but she seemed in genuine need and distress. 

The lady kissed me and offered me her number but ultimately didn't give it to me, I didn't push the point and neither did she. I hope she wasn't going to buy drugs, given where I was and the designer type clothes she had on I don't think it was that. I'm still not really sure what it was she was doing or quite why I gave her the money- it wasn't an impulsive decision, I had time to think it through and I made that choice to sacrifice the £15- under the influence of film I think. Yes I was partly looking after myself, by then only she and I were on the street and she was worked up, but that wasn't the reason. I think I felt something was very wrong for her and she couldn't really say what. I hope I didn't allow her to do herself any harm. 

My walk home after that episode was different, I was silent and quiet outside and inside. In life- and in London particularly- you sit, stand and walk so close to complete strangers all the time and you have no idea what is happening in their lives. They could desperately need help but who would know, they could be villians and how would you tell.  

The photo is of Sligo, from their tourism website. Sligo features in the film Calvary- and looks very beautiful.

Wednesday 9 April 2014


Where have I been? The thing about blogging is if you don't do it regularly you start to forget how, or why you do it and what you wanted to say in a post- or overall- seems to slip away more easily. You lose the habit, the routine, perhaps the desire.

Blogging has changed since I started.; far more of the online world (like the world entire) is about images.Far more blogs are also professional, which is great! Some of the blogs I first loved have become full time jobs for their writers and I'm thrilled for them.

With a professional blog though usually* comes some* compromise (*this isn't universally true, it's probably more true of people who need to work rather than people who don't- and there are a lot of people out there who blog as a 'career' but don't actually need a career). The blogging world used to be so friendly and it still is, but it's more professionally friendly now and that is also not quite the same thing- you wouldn't get drunk with your boss the way you'd get drunk with your best friend. Well you probably wouldn't (I have been really drunk with my boss).

I think blogs are generally at their best when they have a clearly defined topic or when the writer is really quite talented. Topics are simple, if you really like red pigs and someone writes a red pig blog when you find it you'll probably love it and maybe even make friends with other red pig enthusiasts. Lots of blogs have shown the world that there is a world of enthusiasts and connected them. For me the world of loving scent has been made so, so much richer from the blogging world.

So I think topic blogs are in some ways easy. Find a topic you know about or love and write about it, regularly.

Very good writing is harder to find and harder to pull off.

Wonderful prose can be about brillo pads or topping up your Oyster card and be moreish and enjoyable. The first blog I ever loved was a real blog which to me means a quite personal diary. The blog no longer exists but the author has now written several highly regarded books having been a non professional previously- you could tell that would happen because you wanted to read about what she had on her toast, she is a great writer. I wish I could find another blog like the one she wrote, I wish she'd still write it but I understand why she doesn't.

As there has been more noise I've actually gone back to magazines and books more- and my own thoughts and my headphones too (for music and for audiobooks).

I would dearly love to find a couple more really authentic blogs to visit every day or very regularly but I'm not sure if there will ever be the same phenomenon of people just writing for thirty minutes or so a day without a really end game, without it being a career, without knowing their ad prices and without worrying about the audience- that's the world, that's the Internet. I still love my blog, but I don't feel the same about being a blogger anymore.

Monday 27 January 2014

Running away to Rye

 For a recent birthday I chose to run away from London to Sussex to relax, drink wine (and local cider), read books, listen to Louis, Ella and Nina, to not check my phone every 2 minutes and to not have to arrange a party- I can't recommend it enough (though I do always love a party, don't misunderstand me, just not people moaning that they don't have money in January, aren't drinking or 'funning' and so on, I know it's a tricky time but I can't help when I was born).

Anyway this is beautiful Winchelsea beach and you can see more of the escape on Sussex Pinterest board. 

PS. If you ever go to Rye please visit @LionStreetStore, it's beautiful curated and full (but not too full) of the kind of cool things that some people would say you can only find in London postcodes, East London postcodes specifically- well it's not true.

Also visit  The Ship Inn for food, drink and (strong) local cider (though in bottles) and a truly great fish pie (with buttered kale, oh yes).

For coffee AND shopping in one place I really liked the Old Grain Store in Rye harbour, lovely people with a great assortment of gifts, home ware, candles (and some gorgeous Christmas cushions I nabbed in the sale).