Friday 27 June 2008

On feeling like a grumpy old person

I read this article on the Guardian website today. Although it's a complete cliche to say so it made me feel ragingly old (not the well written article, the content).

I am only ten years post GCSE and when I took them the English Language course was clearly the one that was positioned towards being able to write your own speeches, letters and other daily text one might use in the real world. Of course some of it was also geared towards those with an interest in creative writing and so on and I found that very enjoyable but I'm sure those that didn't could manage to suffer it in much the way I suffered Maths- because it's school and you kind of have to.

Engish Lit. was clearly about your ability to understand, respond and analyse text. This is obviously something anyone who reads fiction uses but it's also something you use in everyday life. Again I enjoyed it and I actually think most people did- but it's school and it's a requirement and people shouldn't have to be lured into doing work by allowing them to read a ghost written biography or whatever.

Virtually everyone at my school, which had a mixed background make up, enjoyed to Kill a Mocking Bird. Would they all have picked it up by themselves? hell no. Did they/ we all universally love the book from then on? yes. This is why good choices of books need to be made by exam boards and teachers alike- to encourage reading and appreciation of literature for it's own sake.

We are told it's good for our bodies to do physical activity throughout life and this pattern is started at school where we do sport for our health and to teach us to be able to play sports and hopefully enjoy them. Why don't the Government, or whoever is putting the pressure on for these dumbed down courses to be run, feel the same about reading? Reading helps keep my mind sane which is good for my health and makes me a happier more well rounded member of society. I'm not saying you should have to read literature the way people coudn't say you have to do sport (thank goodness!) but I'm saying it's an option children should be shown how to enjoy. Those encouraging this shouldn't assume children will only be able to appreciate autobiographies of footballers or child stars, given the opportunity they might adore Jany Eyre, or Pride and Prejudice or any of the classics. At least encourage them to try! If they have to introduce other texts why not one of these rather than a whole course dedicated to them.

The idea that there needs to be a third GCSE for being able to read and write leaves me feeling ancient an aghast. Surely if you leave school without being able to read and write there is quite a serious problem?

Okay rant over.

Picture courtesy of:

Friday 20 June 2008

Alexa Chung's scent of choice

So the ES magazine's My London interviewee this week is Alexa Chung.

She says she wears Creed's Vetiver- she has great taste in scent as well as clothes and boyfriends it would be appear...

You can read more about celebrities and the scents they wear on this fantastic site

picture courtesy of The Telegraph

L'Artisan L'Ete en Douce

Lucky Scent has the new L'Artisan fragrance and offers these tantalising details:

'the scoop
Gauzy, soft and refined, this summery blend is extraordinarily charming. Those who, like us, adore Olivia Giacobetti’s translucent style, will be delighted with L’Ete en Douce. The airy orange blossom and the ethereal linden are blended with a delightfully cool mint note, which highlights the fresh greenness of the florals and makes them seem diaphanous, like the finest of silks blowing in the wind…The soft base of white woods and white musks lingers on the skin, turning L’Ete en Douce into one of the loveliest your-skin-but-better fragrances we have encountered. A must have for summer!

L'Ete en Douce notes
mint, rose, orange blossom, hay, white woods, and white musk'

I understand it was previously released by L'Artisan as Extrait de Songes but I didn't get to try it then so it's a whole new scent to me.

I am walking me to L'Artisan's Marylebone High St shop this evening, this sounds perfect, if it is it's going to create a whole new 100ml sized problem and make the perfume wish list even longer...

Midsummer scent wish list

All I want for Midsummer's Day (next Tuesday in the UK) is:

A bottle of Creed's Virgin Island Water (this literally does smell of Mojito's on the beach at dusk to me... it transports me to Bermuda, where my Mother grew up)

A bottle of Antonia's Flowers Tiempe Passate (this continues my fascination with scents with a salt and skin notes and it's name is Sicilian, how much more perfect could a classy summer scent be? although actually I would wear this all year round and it would be just as good in the cold)

(Funny that both are some of the most expensive fragrances available and also never available at discount...)

Demeter Salt Air and Laundromat in room spray (easy available at Liberty and kind to the purse) and skin scent (not so easy, only available in the USA and not available in Minneapolis when I went)

Perhaps there is a Midsummers Day Fairy- the summer equivalent of Santa Claus- who will visit and bring scented gifts?

Picture of Arthur Rackham's fairies courtesy of

Thursday 19 June 2008

Midland Morecambe Mon Amour

The beautiful Midland Hotel in Morecambe went from this spendlour and having visitors like Gabrielle Chanel and Noel Coward

To this rather sad state:

I adore Art Deco architecture and was aware that the Midland's future was in dire straits so was so happy to see on the Culture show with the lovely Mark Kermode this week that it has been restored and now looks absolutely glorious:

I am now plotting a trip to Morecambe... It is so wonderful when a treasure like this is saved. I hope the hotel is a great success all over again.

You can see more supremely elegant pictures and read all about the hotel past and present here

Wednesday 18 June 2008


I can't decide if I am excited about the forthcoming John Maybury film The Edge of Love or not.

I greatly admire Dylan's work and I'm a sucker for anything wartime- be it London or rural- so I should love this but I'm not convinced- we'll see.

What I know is that I love Laugharne, where Dylan and Caitlin Thomas spent their later years together.

The pictures above are by a photographer called David Wilson whose work I came across when visiting West Wales about a year ago.

Ever since visiting Laugharne and seeing Dylan Thomas' writing shed (above) and the ramshackle but gorgeous old book shop in the town(also above) I have coveted these two prints quite obsessively.

I sought his work out on the internet having told myself when in Wales that I didn't need two large framed prints and would be much better putting the money they would cost towards saving for a wall of my own to put pictures on.

I eventually found his work and you can see more of it here.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

L'Ombre Dans L'Eau

Diptyque's L'Ombre Dans L'eau (the shadow in the water) has been my latest perfume obsession- and I've finally cracked and bought myself a beautiful bottle brimmed full with the scent of my latest dreams.

Much of the writing we see about fragrance in the printed press (although not I hasten to add on the internet and in the world of blogs) can be quite formulaic and incredibly uninspiring. This always surprises me, magazines and newspapers think nothing of letting a writer have free reign to write about food and enter into raptures about how evocative food can be when I think perfume can often transport you to a similar, or even greater, degree.

I much prefer perfume reviews or pieces that use abstract or more imaginative ways of describing a smell in words.

To that end I would say the picture on the scent's box of a swan swimming through flowers on a shaded stream in many ways describes in a picture how this scent smells. The scent is green and rosy- it smells of rose petals that have been dropped in water but fresh water mixed with earth as it would be in a stream rather than water from a florists tap.

I don't know if the picture of the swan is mean to allude to the fact that swans only love once- certainly that's what I thought of when I saw the box. The swan reminds a little of Ophelia as painted by Sir John Everett Millais (above).

For all that L'Ombre Dans L'eau is something of a melancholy scent it is also quite a comforting, peaceful one. I think it should ideally be worn by a woman with a very big heart capable of great and unswerving love, like Ophelia, who may be as beautiful and graceful as a swan. (I hasten to add I only aspire to be such a woman).

Picture courtesy of Tate Britain

Friday 13 June 2008

Postcard teas

Last night I finally visited Postcard teas on Dering Street. It is one of those shops that looks like it has been lost in time from the outside- in a good way- it looks very Dickensian and like a shop that has been there for years, but the paint work is pristine and it is beautifully kept. Peeping inside it looks much more modern but it still seems like a hidden treasure trove filled with mysterious and intoxicating goods from the East.

I ventured in...

Everyone in the shop, customers and staff alike was very charming. The shop is extremely calming and peaceful, partly because of the atmosphere and partly because of the wonderful smell of all the teas.

Goods on offer include many specially chosen rare teas, beautiful traditional tea pots and cups and copper tea caddies. You can also view their collection of tea postcards from over the years.

I came away with the coffee flower tea- a perfect little present for a caffeine loving friend.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Posie tint!

I have only been in Wales for a long weekend and already there is a new cult beauty product out!

I tried Posie tint last night and it's a perfect, barely there whisper of a flush posie pink for people who find it's older sister Benetint a little too much of a rosy tint.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Commuting Dog

On my journey to work I see a man who takes his dog into work everyday.

I always wonder what the commute from it's rural or suburban home to the ever cold hall at Waterloo and through the legs of throngs of smelly, grumpy, rushing people must be like for a dog.

The commuting dog looks a bit like an Irish Wolfhound but is shorter and stouter in stature. He has bushy eyebrows, very knowing, kind eyes and the constantly smiling mouth some dogs have.

He is incredibly calm, much calmer than his owner or the other passengers. He trots along the platform with neither too much nor too little haste.

I often whereabouts the dog spends his days. My best guess from his owners clothes is that they head into the city and he sits under a desk patiently with his chin in his paws while his man does deals.

Other things I often wonder are:
Do dogs need a ticket and is there a limit to how many dogs there can be per carraige?

Does commuter dog take a copy of the Metro in the morning?

Does it annoy commuter dog as much as it annoys me when the guard insists on checking tickets, even though it means walking over and through a packed carriage full of people who have already been through electronic barriers?

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Heaven is on the fourth floor...

...of Liberty in London. Their annual Arts and Crafts selling exhibition has just opened there.

Liberty is probably my favourite shop; I love the building, the history, the beautiful prints and the way they marry the old and the new in their design and with the objects they stock.

The Arts and Crafts exhibition can include anything from 1850 to the present day, Although in practice much of what is on show is from the late 1800's to the mid 1930's- probably my favourite period in textiles, furniture and design- so the exhibition is a must visit.

I strolled around and gazed at the beautiful furniture and other objects thinking about which items I would buy if I could.

I think my favourite piece was the table above. You can see more of the exhibits here; the exhition is on until the 15th of June.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Watching America

I have just returned from a trip to American and Canadian Prairie towns.

It has been my experience with all places North American that aren't New York that you have to embrace the strange and peculiar to start to enjoy yourself. For all that the language is the same this world is far more alien than any European places I have visited. So I rode the roller coasters, shopped the shops, ate the pizza slices and got at least waist deep in it all.

Here are my best bits of Minneapolis and Winnipeg:

1) Orange Julius a frozen orange and cream type drink. I was dubious but this stuff is like nectar. I was totally addicted. If one ever opens in the UK I will be making a pilgrimage.

2) Seeing real Amish people

3) The sunset driving through the Prairies. The amount of land and the red skies were awe- inspiring. They have so much land in this part of the world that all that we drove through seemed to be surplus to requirements. It wasn't farmed with crops nor grazed with animals. It was just open for miles and miles. I felt an enormous sense of respect for the people who settled here, the land is open and it's very, very cold. To come here and make a life can't have been easy- but the beautiful sunsets must have helped.

4) Driving through Fargo! It's a real place and it was one of only 2 turns we took on our 9 hour trip.

5) The Mall of America. This might sound like the end of civilisation and a palace to celebrate consumerism, which I'm sure is partly the case. However it also offered this British girl many lovely shops with goods priced in dollars, meaning her earnings could stretch that bit further. It also had roller coasters, a cinema and all kinds of ice- cream. So what's not to like really?

sunset image courtesy of


I adore scent and I can always while away time in a perfume department or shop sniffing and assessing the olfactory offerings. Sniffing is actually a past- time enjoyed by more people than you might think, so there is no need to worry that the departments will be annoyed if you spend some time feasting on their scents and examining the beautiful packaging. Any proper perfume sales person will know that it takes time to decide if you like a scent and also that people enjoy the process of trying perfumes. The best places will leave you to yourself but offer help if you should require it.

My London favourites are the Liberty perfume room and Les Senteurs but there are many others I love. Liberty is to me what Tiffany’s is to Holly Golightly, the shopping equivalent of heaven, instantly relaxing and calming but also beautiful and stimulating. The perfume room is one of the best parts of the shop- it’s decked with decadent wallpaper and has a great variety of scents laid out enticingly; favourites they offer include Tann Rokka, the Comme De Garcons fragrance line and L’Artisan Parfeumeur.

Les Senteurs is a specialist scent shop located in Belgravia which specifically offers more niche and unusual lines and has real exclusives including the fabulous Frederic Malle scents amongst many others; the staff are real aficionado’s and are very helpful. The shop is also on a lovely villagey street surrounded by white washed buildings and tree lined squares. Visiting fills me with the same sense of excitement and anticipation that I had as a child when walking to the sweet shop- and I gorge myself on the scents as I did the sweets- often coming out with scents on the front of my hand and all the way from my wrist to my elbow.

For the amount of choice and space you cannot fault Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis or Harvey Nichols. Fenwick's also has some surprisingly unusual brands (Diptyque, Antonia’s Flowers, Robert Piquet) and also some of the rarer offerings from the big companies (including some of the older and loveliest Guerlain's).

picture courtesy of