Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

Repeat the sounding joy....

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Book club

I go to a Modern book club at the really delightful Nomad books on the Fulham Road.

I looked for a reading group of some description for a long time before finding this one. I wanted a club I could attend regularly and because I work until 6pm on a good day and most book clubs start at 6pm or 6.30pm at a push it was always tricky. I also wanted one earlier in the week if possible as later in the week there are more distractions that might mean cancelling.

So the first Monday of the month is perfect for me and though Nomad isn't anywhere near where I live it's easy to reach from work, I can have a snacky supper on the bus and it's a pretty area I used to live and work near which I enjoy revisiting.

This month was the first time we have read a non fiction book, which was actually very refreshing.

The book in question was Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the illusion of equality.

I don't have children so considering modern motherhood is obviously something I am doing theoretically but also with great interest. I have of course been the child of a Mother and I have friends who are Mothers. Becoming a Mother is a source of anxiety that I suppose I never thought it would be when I was growing up. For a start it never occurs to you that you might not be able to be a Mother when you're young, either for medical reasons or because you don't meet the right person. So that's one thing to be anxious about.

Secondly if you do find that person and you are lucky enough to be able to have children and do have them then you need to think about how you are going to manage the care of your child or children. Now some people may not worry about this at all, but this book is about the burden of care and responsibility for children falling with women and the effect that has. Asher's book is definitely written from a feminist viewpoint and despite considering myself a believer in all things equal rights I have never read overtly feminist work.

What was interesting was she is right, women do end up doing most of the care- whether they work full time as a Mother at home or work part time or full time in a job. It's assumed if a woman wants to go back to work she will arrange the nursery or au pair for her children- and it's from the salary she then earns that the childcare costs are subtracted- not the joint salaries of the parents. I'd never thought about it.

Asher's book is funny and opens your eyes to how you view parents. For example the Dad who is out with his child alone at the playground or coffee shop- a Dad present said women are always congratulating him for looking after his child alone- when they would never congratulate other women. You never walk past a Mum playing with her baby and think she's a great Mum but you would if you saw a Dad doing the same thing. It's actually absurd when you think about it!

Equally she points out that the whole system in this country does nothing to help Dads feel essential from the start- I had not realised that Fathers are sent home as soon as a baby is born if the baby comes overnight- she described feeling bereft when her husband was asked to leave her alone with a 2 hour old baby (and admittedly lots of staff but they wouldn't be bringing up that baby). Likewise the Father present who works at the shop said it made him feel very strange to be sent home- but that you don't question anything the doctors and nurses tell you because you can't really and you are probably exhausted and putting all your faith in those people. Again this is crazy!

The whole discussion opened my eyes, in many ways it gave me hope because all the women there are finding a way but it also made me re- realise that women and men are different.

I LOVE talking about books though, not having exams to think about or essays to write makes the act of just talking about why you enjoyed books all the more enjoyable.

Next we will read Swimming Home Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which I have high hopes for!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Wednesday 29 August 2012

4 go (relaxation) mad in Whitstable

Whitstable has been on my to visit list for so long that I wondered if it would ever happen! But two weekends ago it finally did- and it was as good as I'd hoped. 

We came from the south (I had been out in Surrey at a wedding), the North (the proper north ie further than Manchester), the West (west London) and the East (also London). As usual there was the crazy scramble to make the train but I secretly quite enjoy the drama of the race to the ticket barriers and then on to the beeping doors- although I only enjoy it when I make it!

As the doors slammed shut I could feel myself start to relax. The relaxation was briefly ceased by one of those are we in the front of the train, or the back dilemnas? Will we end up winning the train dividing gamble and going to Whitstable or will we lose and go to Dover and be sad (I'm sure Dover is lovely but we'd not booked to go there!).

However we were in a good carriage and all was well. On arrival in Whitstable we took a taxi (4 women going for 3 days obviously equalled 8 bags, not including handbags). The taxi was £3, £3 imagine that in London. £3! (I continued to exclaim £3 throughout the holiday, without explanation- I would say, this ice cream is amazing- and a taxi is £3, or wow Dallas is coming back- can you believe that taxi was £3!).

We stayed at a gorgeous self catering apartment and very appropriately for this summer it was named Bunting. We had everything we could need and it was so relaxing we all kept nipping off for afternoon naps (holiday heaven!). 

Whitstable is an independent and very chain free sort of spot- we got all our supplies from local shops- a great off licence, a fabulous cake shop and so on- but they do have real coffee and we went to Costa each morning for Americanos to take back to the apartment.

Whitstable is brilliant at all budgets- there are lots of quite pricey eateries for sure- but you can also have fresh oysters and a local beer on the beach for next to nothing- and of course it couldn't taste better.

We particularly liked the Pearsons Arms by Richard Phillips.
The restaurant is upstairs and looks out over the beach to the sea- it's wood lined and a mixture of cosy but chic. The fish was delicious- I had salmon and monkfish but I very much wanted the scallops in ginger foam too! The do a great value lunch offer and I only wish we'd found them in time to have their Sunday roast- it's a good reason to go back!

Then for pudding I highly recommend Sundae Sundae  (where I had this boat full of rose and lychee ice cream topped with popping candy- yes it was as good as it sounds!).

We were all very sad as we waited for our taxi to the train (£3 again!). Whitstable is the kind of place you go to to be restored, it's not enormous so I think a mini break is the ideal length of time- but it certainly left me wanting more (oysters, ice cream, scampi, afternoon naps, beach walks....)

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Making me...

Making me thirsty: tea inspired by Penhaligon's new scent Peoneve

Making my heart happy: Under the Westway by Blur (and their concert in Hyde Park on Sunday, the sound could have been better but Blur were immense).

Making my toe tap: of monsters and men

Making me want to get out of the city: This post about Lavender fields by the Sneaky Magpie

Making me pin! Ice cream lock (so funny... and I need one)

Making me proud: The UK and London for putting on a great Olympics London 2012

Making me cry: Those adverts on channel 4 about the Super humans, I can't wait for the Paralympics

Making me hungry: Greedy ice cream (try the mango!)

Friday 10 August 2012

New Forest adventures and The Pig, hotel and restaurant of dreams

Last weekend this little piggy went to the New Forest. I stayed at a really lovely bed and breakfast called Cottage lodge in beautiful Brockenhurst, where ponies have right of way and the sun seems to shine all day (though maybe we were lucky!).

We travelled down by train, leaving a very red, white and blue Waterloo (lots of Olympic supporters dressed in their best). We made sure we were armed with some very British drinks- dandelion and burdock- and some very Russian vodka, for a little train tipple- train tipples being an essential part of a weekend bolting out of London in my opinion.

Having been welcomed at our lovely B&B with coffee and cake- and having watched Rebecca Adlington battle to bronze- we ventured out to what we thought would be a cute local pub. But no! it was a very relaxed but very lovely restaurant called The Thatched cottage where we had  Venison (y-um) and this selection of chocolate delights- the best being the white chocolate brownie- which looks yellow here but wasn't in real life.

The next morning, after a lovely full English including poriddge and fruit (and eggs and bacon, clearly) we ventured into the forest as we clearly needed to walk off the vast ammount of calories consumed! We did about ten miles and saw ponies and deer. We got slightly lost and very muddy, we popped to a farmer's market, had a Pimms and saw some cricket. It was all exactly what you'd expect and it was lovely.

Then it was time for a little nap, an Olympic check in (it was super Saturday after all) and then for the most important part of the weekend The Pig Hotel

The Pig was like a dream. You drive into the forest and up a small, tree lined track and then suddenly you are on a much grander drive way up to a beautiful Georgian looking house, the kind you dream of owning but know you probably never will. The Pig is totally luxurious but utterly relaxed. On entering the restaurant, which is filled with local flowers and herbs, my friend and I both remarked this is the kind of place you'd dream of getting married- I've never felt that before.

Dinner was wonderful- and I think for the quality remarkable value. You would pay what we paid in any mediocre gastro pub in London and this food was incredible- and I'd just been to lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant the day before which the Pig put to shame. Everything is from their grounds or very local- they list the distances in miles- they also had organic wines and lots of British wine.

To start I had bone marrow, my first bone marrow- it was delicious but is clearly not for vegetarians or those with vegetarian leanings! My friend had foraged fritters which were battered flowers, vegetables and fish from the local area- sublime. For our main courses I had a pork chop with apple and celeriac mash and greens from their garden (which reminded me of greens from my Grandmother's garden, fresh just picked vegetables are so much more wonderful than you remember if aren't lucky enough to have them often). For the blonde it was scallops- which she said were so good she might prefer them to sex, though I'm not sure she'd let me hold her to it!!!

But it was pudding that sealed the deal for me. I had a kind of tarte tartin case filled with clotted cream with honey- which was reduced to a lighter consistency. This casing was filled with fresh gooseberries- those rare and beautiful green gems of the English garden (which were dressed in booze of some kind!). I'm not sure I've ever had such a good British dessert ever. My friend had the frozen terrine- also delicious but for me it was all about the gooseberries.

We then adjourned to the bar where we thought we'd have one of the cocktails, elderflower, gin, apple, yes please. However we decided what we'd really fancy was an Irish coffee- which wasn't on the menu. No matter the said and I thought we'd get a perfectly nice Irish coffee but no! a waiter came with a special tray and prepared the coffees in front of us like a little show- then everyone else in the bar wanted coffees!

The next day I went on a 60 foot yacht, which I can report is a very good way of blowing away any kind of hangover or cobwebs. We sailed around the solent for about six hours, soaking up sunshine and learning how to tie knots and turn boats- I'm not very good at either but it was lots of fun! Then it was to a very old, very pretty pub in Hamble to see the very last of the tennis and back on the train home! weekends away feel so much longer than weekends at home.

Thank- you Hampshire for being beautiful!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

A home of one's own

 A long time ago I wrote a blog called A home of one's own; it was about being a first time buyer, but I stopped writing the blog because I stopped being a first time buyer and kept being a renter.

With hindsight it was no bad thing, I was looking at the top ish of the market and although the London property market is as unstoppable as a runaway train, wages are affected by economic troubles and I could perhaps have been paying too much each month for something.

I've also been very happy in the two flats I've lived in since that time- one was very small but in central London and living there had long been a dream of mine- the other is a lovely flat in East London where I am currently. East London has a great atmosphere and is like the whole world in a few square miles and I've been living with a school friend, which has been lovely.

It looks like it might be time for the The Littlest Hobo to 'keep moving on' again soon. So the question is, should I think of buying my own home, or should I keep being a renter? Received (British) wisdom is that, if you can, you should always buy, but buying is committing and I quite like the idea that I could just go and live in Paris at a moment's notice (I couldn't because of personal commitments and also because my French is good enough for holidays but not for life!).

Though buying a place doesn't stop you being free, maybe it makes you more so, so what am I scared of? I'd love the decorating, anyone who follows me on Pinterest (do follow me!) knows I'm obsessed with my  dream home board and there's a whole pile of magazine cuttings from the time before Pinterest. So I should probably take the plunge and start looking for those shoe boxes!

Thursday 2 August 2012


Before we had Summer we had the endless rain.

So of course, being mad and British, I went to a festival- Latitude- where there were pink, blue and green sheep and there was a lot of mud- though they did their absolute best and as elbow said we were happy 'mud dogs'! (with Hummingbird bakery cup cakes available at all times how sad could you really be?).

However after 4 tent sleeps and 4 days of mud, pack a macs, clothes that had been danced in for many hours (in a forest disco provided by Dermot O'Leary, in the sunshine for Ben Howard, in dark fields and warm tents for Guilty Pleasures) and tent hair my friend and I were desperate to be cleansed and reborn as Londoners again.

So we went to Dalston to the proper Hammam there (check the days- some days are ladies, some days are for men). It's amazing! We had steam, we had a scrub, we were washed with bubbles (I thought I might drown in bubbles, but in a good way), then we relaxed, then we had a full body massage including head and feet with warming oil, then a face mask, with extra face and head massage- all for £35.

It's almost worth getting that muddy to get that clean.

Image courtesy of W Magazine (Kate Moss at a Hammam)

Friday 27 July 2012

Welcome to London

Today is the first day of the Olympics and I'm so excited. London is full of visitors and it feels like a really happy time, a mixture of Christmas, the Jubilee and a really special birthday.

I don't pretend to love all the sports but I love the idea of the Olympics and I hope London executes the Games in the spirit it should have- less official sponsors and more amazing stories like this.

I wasn't thrilled to not get the tickets I'd hoped for and I did feel uninvited in many ways by that process but I live literally round the corner and the site of the stadium all lit up like a beacon from my balcony every night makes me really happy. East London has been through some really tough times but is a place with great history and spirit and I think if the Games were going to be in London the East is great place for the heart of everything to be- that stadium has risen literally like a phoenix from the ashes of bomb damage, economic difficulty and real poverty, the type that we sometimes like not to notice but that is very real in some parts of London.

Stratford is already transformed by being a destination to visit, rather than a place to go through- and it feels like a really happy, upcoming place now.

I can't wait for the opening ceremony! Welcome to everyone!

Picture from Time Out London

Wednesday 25 July 2012

A Doll's House at the Young Vic

On Monday night I went to see  A Doll's House at the Young Vic and I really can't recommend it enough.

I studied the play for my A levels and took it to my heart then but I went last night with two theatregoers who didn't know the play and I loved being with people who didn't know the ending.

The play was of course written and set in late 1800s but it really is very modern, even now, I know people say that and you probably see the Victorian costumes and think oh yeah I bet it isn't- but this is! Torvald is a banker, Krogstad is a clerk- both are legally trained, Dr. Rank is a doctor, everyone (male) is a professional. The play constantly discusses financial hard times, the struggle to maintain a certain lifestyle- and it discusses in this case a women's dependence on men- though Ibsen was very clear he didn't mean to write a feminist play, he meant to write a play about people having their own identity, male or female- but the play was considered shocking at the time because that individual was a woman- and it resonates today because it's a woman I think- though maybe someone will do a production where Nora is the breadwinner and Torvald the house husband- it would work just as well if it were done well, I think.

The post below about marrying for money loomed large in my mind while watching the play. I've had the discussion recently with friends, partly because of what I wrote below, about thoughts on marrying for money- no one explicitly said they would but everyone said it would be great- and some said they really have thought about it seriously- or are thinking about it seriously.

Nora and Christine don't marry for money because they have a choice though, they marry at a time when they were either their Father or husband's responsibility and if anything happened to either and you as a daughter or wife weren't provided for you were seriously stuck. Christine works as she's a widow- and she says she loves to work and it gave her her identity, Nora does some work but she has to hide it from her husband because he would be angry- and perhaps ashamed.

The play is very sad- very sad for everyone- but Nora's situation is particularly difficult.You begin the play thinking she is ridiculous, acting like a little girl and begging for treats like a child would beg for a doll- but you realise she has to be this way to get anything in life, it is the only way for her. You also realise she has courage and she has morals, they are different morals to the norms of her society though. She considers her families well being above their respectability, which is standard now but it's clear it wasn't necessarily then.

So how far we've come- everyone- it's easy to watch costume dramas and think you'd have been better having been in a time gone by (I always think I'd have done very well pre War) but the likelihood is you would have been a scullery maid working all hours with only every other Wednesday afternoon off- and it would have been rubbish. The likelihood is not that you would have been a Mitford, or a Bronte sister or a suffragette.

A Doll's House is a great play but it is dependent on a good Nora and Hattie Morahan is a great one in my opinion- sickly sweet when she needs to be but gravely serious and very real when the play requires. Importantly you are with her, even at the play's conclusion, which is controversial even now. As the lights dimmed I thought good luck to her Nora, good luck to all the Noras.


Monday 23 July 2012

Shellac- for the nails you've always wanted

I have formed something of an addiction to Shellac- the semi permanent nail varnishing technique that I used to be a bit snobby about.

It turns out that it makes your nails look amazing and it's very addictive having unchipped, bright red nails to look down at for at least a week before there is even a sign of trouble.

I must say that although they say the varnish lasts 2 weeks I would say a week is the optimum time for it looking truly film star well groomed. However you can eek out another week if you're careful and don't mind the regrowth showing a little at the top of the nail. I also have quite fast growing nails and I've noticed not everyone does.

I have paid so much money for manicures that can't last more than 2 days on me because I type all day everyday- for work in the week and for my hobby at the weekend. I also don't have a cleaner and things like unblocking the sink earlier (I know, I was horrified too... chick peas it turns out do not go down sinks) just ruin anything but this industrial dried on space age varnish.

On the downside once the shallac starts lifting I do have a tendency to be bad and pull it off which is really bad for you nails and they tell you not to do- but if you don't do that like me you shouldn't have any trouble- and you can finally have film star, do anything and they don't chip, nails!

What's not to love?

Friday 20 July 2012

Men who marry women for money

Mrs Merton famously asked Debbie McGee why she married the millionaire Paul Daniels- and it was funny-  but ladies how do we feel about men who marry women for money?

This sparked a discussion amongst a group of professionals I was with recently. While we've all been grafting a former peer has bagged himself a billionaire's daughter and can hang up his suit and tie forever- and get the tux out for charity dinners.

My thoughts aren't about individuals though. Enjoying drinks, rather too many drinks, with single girlfriends this week the discussion turned to men- as it often does. A friend had been advised to write a list of must haves and must not haves in order to focus on finding a long term partner- rather than lots of short term fun. The life coach/ guru type she's seeing said that the lists help you focus on what you actually want from a relationship- and actually once we started writing them down it does sharpen the mind.

It's very interesting to see what is actually important for different people. All of ladies present said that any man had to be financially independent, that at the outset we would not want to be financially supporting a man, though of course you never know how life will turn out and in a marriage I'm sure we all understand that might become necessary.

But this post is about men. If we asked a group of men to write a list would they now write a woman who is financially independent, probably, I don't think they would have in years gone by. I also think men probably mean able to look after herself for now financially at the moment, not forever.Whereas I think the women mean a man whose finances you'll never have to worry about, whose finances will hopefully worry about you. There is a difference.I pass no judgement on any of this by the way, I am neither endorsing nor cristicising.

There have always been wealthy heiresses, the Countess in Downton Abbey was fortune hunted from America to save the grand but cash poor estate- and though the story is fiction the fact that rich heiresses have always been sought isn't new. From Elizabeth I to Christina Onassis a woman of means must be mindful of suitors looking for money more than love.

Nowadays though there are also more women who have made their own money and there will be more men who earn less than their wives. There will also be more men thinking I'm a good looking chap, and I might get ahead better ahead in life meeting a nice girl with money than working 14 hours a day at the coal face? So perhaps good luck to those men- they aren't doing anything that hasn't been done for years, more by women but by both seces- and I am not rich enough to have to worry about it, but I do find it strange- and I find thinking about money when thinking about love strange- but I'm an old romantic. 

The only currency I'm interested in

While the news is full of the Euro the only coins I'm really interested in are these beautiful Liberty of London copper treasures.

They come in a pouch that looks a bit like something Maid Marian might have carried to give funds to Robin Hood and have a charming little picture of the best department store in the world (in my humble opinion) on them.

Clearly these are the best form of gift promise you can buy a lady, or gentleman. They make those plastic cards you get in other shops look a little bit silly don't they?

Saturday 9 June 2012

The Bath edition

I love Bath. If you know Bath but have never been you will probably know two things about it, that it's a world heritage site and that it is Jane Austen land. Both facts are true and are reasons to visit Bath, but like any city including London and Paris I think Bath improves every time you visit and is more enjoyable when you've 'done' the tourist stuff (though all the Austen stuff is clearly mandatory if you are female).

My Bath though, the Bath I revisit, is about sophisticated relaxation.


I adore London, particularly shopping in London, but London's size can be exhausting. In London if you want that one special dress, that knock out pair of heels or that scent to entrance your proposed new love you can keep going from Marylebone to Upper street to Selfridges to Knightsbridge- every village and department store will have what you want, or need, but you are never quite sure there isn't something better out there- and so you and your oyster card keep travelling until you collapse exhausted from a seven mile round trip.

Bath is delightfully compact and full of the kind of boutiques that edit their stock with all the products you feel you need under one roof.

For shopping for me I especially love Prey on George Street, just off the very central street Milsom street. When I first visited Bath as a penniless ish new graduate it was in Prey that I blew my lunch budget on French shabby chic bathroom accessories and I've loved it ever since. Downstairs you will find books like the Taschen guides to the world's major city break destinations, statement costume jewellery, home accessories and scents from L'Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal. Upstairs you will find fashion from Orla Kiely and the kinds of designers you wish you could find when you are going around and around London shops wondering why everything looks the same.

My newest fashion discovery is  Instant vintage. Also on George street I visited on the Saturday of the Jubilee when the lovely staff were making sure all their customers had champagne to toast the Queen and themselves. I bought a new clutch bag (I had forgotten to take an evening bag with me) and a fabulous pair of vintage looking pearl, bird earrings that were the envy of all the girls in the club I went to later. My shopping accomplice found two new dresses and a belt. We both also won prizes in the Jubilee lucky dip- she a thirties bracelet and I an extremely sweet silk stitched purse.My only sadness is Instant vintage's website really doesn't do them justice, so you'll just have to go to be sure that I'm right.

For cards, notebooks (fellow writers), pens and the most wonderful advent calenders (think German picture calenders) I recommend Mayther. For home ware, emergency presents and general lifestyle porn you can't go wrong with Vinegar Hill.


Now I must say to me holidays always say Italian food and so I love Martini because it's a proper Italian, with anti pasti, secondi, loud gregarious waiters, singing for birthdays, rich desserts and Montepulciano. They also serve proper Italian food, the kind that makes you want to sing like Pavarotti because you're so happy (incidentally I had a cocktail named after the larger than life tenor which was delectable, though I don't know that elderflower and champagne is terribly Italian myself- they had Aperol though if you wanted to be more authentic).

For a lunch time paninni and people watching in a comfortable but chic Georgian first floor room (and some retail therapy on the way out) go to Bloomsbury- it's Veggie but it's great, they do a mean ploughman's, proper salads and wake up after too many of the above mentioned cocktails coffee.

Your Lonely Plant will tell you go to Sally Lunn's for the buns- and you probably should once, though I find them to be enormous and filling in the way food from another age can be. For a top notch afternoon tea with bubbles, little sandwiches, and cake which is also Georgian but more the Wolesley than the inn on the corner go to the Pump rooms and feel special.

To walk off lunch:

I'm going to go traditional here and say the Royal Crescent because it's breath takingly beautiful and quite steep- so actual calories will be worn off while you run like Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliott towards Rupert Penry- Jones' Captain Wentworth in Persuasion (or is it just me who does that?).

To relax:

Go to the Baths of course. Not the Roman ones- though you really should because where else in the world can you walk around so much of Rome in an actual city (okay in Rome but that's different). But I mean the new Baths- set inside a Bath stone Georgian building but inside it's more like the Sanderson, or a European bank, than anything the characters in Vanity Fair would recognise.

 (Roman baths)

Downstairs you can steam in four different scented pods, shower off in hot, cold or monsoon showers and take the spa waters in the pool. Up on the roof is a second pool over looking the Abbey and the hills of Somerset you can float and bathe in the natural warm salty waters with bubbles galore- when I went the sun shone so brightly I wished I'd taken sunglasses but it also look fun in the rain! It's not a spa in the hotel sense- you will have to share, but that is why it's like the Roman experience- and it's fun!

(new baths)

If all this has has made you feel ready to get your dancing heels on I had such fun at OPA which is a restaurant earlier but turns into a very stylish and fun club, a self declared 'Rihanna free zone' (there's a sign as you enter) the music policy is eclectic and the door men join in and dance late in the evening.

If  all this makes you feel ready for bed then I've always wanted to stay here, if anyone wants to take me I'm available from around mid July.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Lovely Jubilee

Some of my favourite pictures from the jubilulant Jubilee.

Monday 28 May 2012

Whyred bags

So this another post about Swedish stuff. I don't do this intentionally and I am not on the payroll of anyone in Sweden I promise.

The thing is this bag by Whyred is not only brilliant (the picture doesn't do it justice) but excellent quality for an excellent (given that we are talking silly bag prices here) price.

This bag is the in the size and category of your Mulberry Bayswaters et al, it does everything they do and is as well made but is about the price and dare I saw it a little bit cooler? I like a classic as much as the next girl but with a twist is nicer I think?

Then, if you don't need something so classic work/ meeting looking there is this lovely bag (the 'Tilda'), which could be worn over your body, or in the classic over the shoulder way.

Again I am not saying it's cheap but it is beautiful and it is good value in the category it's in. It would look perfect with brogues and a blazer.

Now I just need to make the money to buy all these things don't I?!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Chelsea Flower Show- the menu


Glass of Joseph Perrier Champagne


Urban garden salad
Nasturtium, dandelion, summer pea and radish salad,
nettle rolled goat's cheese, borage flowers


Hay roasted Herdwick lamb, crushed Jersey Royals and nettles,
braised Alexanders, peppermint jus


English strawberries, rose petal and elderflower Champagne jelly,
ginger beer granita

£36 for three courses / £44 for three courses and a glass of Champagne


Available from Chelsea restaurant The botanist from today until the end of the flower show. Looks delicious. 

Tuesday 15 May 2012

On being dated

This is not a post about dating men, or boys. It is about being dated, or feeling it.

Chatting in a lovely restaurant to dear D I realised how dated a book like Bridget Jones now feels. Please don't misunderstand, I still find the honesty and humour of Helen Fielding's novels- and their film adaptations (well perhaps not the second) comforting and hilarious (actually the skiing and pregnancy test purchasing are side splittingly funny in the Edge of Reason film).

Bridget arrived in the world when I was first in London- as a student- dreaming of going to sophisticated book parties and having such worries as having to choose between Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver. I could afford the Chardonnay but not the flat in Borough.

I knew Bridget was a bit of a mess but she also has a good job in a publishing house and the previously mentioned seriously intelligent man candy to worry about. I didn't aspire to be her but there were parts of me that were like her and identified with her (the parts that have bad hair days, that want to be slimmer but still drink wine and vodka- you know).

I realised that nowadays eighteen year olds probably wouldn't drive to central London to see the film (yes I did that, with friends, with the soundtrack to the film we awaited blasting out of the car stereo- on CD, we thought we were very cool because my car had a CD player- which was worth more than the car).

It is not just that nowadays a girl in her (gulp) 'thirty second year of being single' would be seen as not just a tiny bit lost (Bridget was always that, in a way) but probably thought of as being silly. I don't entirely hold to that- Bridget had great friends and great fun. I would accept that she was a bit frivolous and a student of chaos theory.

However when I meet people just a bit younger than me- mid to late twenties rather than early thirties- they talk far more about actively getting on the property ladder, they seem to really mean it about moving out of London if they need to which Bridget and her like wouldn't dream of.

They also do sensible things like order soft drinks between proper (i.e. alcoholic) drinks (even I now always have water with all proper drinks). The single ones also don't blow lots of money on shoes they can't afford, they buy them in New Look even though they could afford to buy them somewhere more upmarket. I wonder what they would have thought of the student me whisking around the Student's Union in my Kurt Geiger shoes at eighteen or nineteen when they probably wouldn't go there now. [Note I personally think everyone, girl, should know the joy of buying really leather shoes- though perhaps not quite as many as I have over the years].

Ultimately I think the difference was that Bridget wasn't really a mess. She was actually an attractive size 12- 14 woman, probably more a 12. She had a good job which she must have been reasonable at- an enormous flat which okay was rented but oh well. She had options and a fun life. Things have changed, now it's not really enough to be a normal to plump size, with a good job and a good home. Perhaps now is better and perhaps the recession has played a part in younger people being more sensible. I think they are probably right actually but it does sometimes leaving you feel a bit- dated.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Books: Capuchin classics

So it's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I am a Nancy Mitford fan, as in fan short for fanatic. I know some people find her work snobby or even (horror!) irrelevant but I don't care, I would give my little toe to have her turn of phrase and I literally find opening her books like getting into the biggest bed with the downiest, most cloud like duvet imaginable.

Some writer's most famous books aren't their best books (clearly Jane Austen can do little wrong but I would argue the lesser known Persuasion is more of a towering great than say Mansfield Park, which many a girl has trudged through for a levels). In Nancy's case I do think the best known Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are her greatest achievements- although Don't Tell Alfred is also a marvel- but I think everything she does is gold.

Happily a great publisher called Capuchin Classics publish some of Nancy's lesser known delights, including Highland Fling, Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie. Prior to my discovery of this company I only owned Pigeon Pie of these three- and that copy was a very old Penguin classic that I found on the book stall at Spitalfields market which was falling apart completely.

Capuchin's mandate is to revive 'great works of fiction which have been unjustly forgotten or neglected'. I think they are brilliant. Plus the peppermint cream colours covers look delicious on book shelves, especially next to the similarly chic dove grey spines of Persephone books- of which I am also, obviously, very fond.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Film: films I didn't see the first time around- Infamous

You know when two films with the same (or sameish) story come out and one always wins the VHS betamax battle? It seems to be me that the film that does less well isn't necessarily the inferior film, it can be an accident of timing, or a victory for stars or marketing that one film hits and another doesn't quite. The prime example, although perhaps not very high brow, example is perhaps Armageddon versus Deep Impact.

I'm sure you remember the film Capote, with an oscar winning performance from the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman. Do you remember a film called Infamous? It too was about Capote, when he was reseraching In Cold Blood. It too features a brilliant performance of the famous writer this time from brilliant Toby Jones. It also features the very good Sandra Bullock- who is always excellent but often in films that are not so excellent. Happily this one is very good and Sandra is just right as Harper Lee, hero writer of a book that even people who don't like books love, To Kill A Mocking Bird.

Infamous is a really good film, the watching equivalent of a book you can't put down. The kind of film you find on at 11.50pm on a Tuesday and know you shouldn't stay up to watch but you do. It's probably not the best film of all time but it really does deserve to be seen- partly for the afore mentioned rare Sandra in good film thing- also because Toby Jones is alway brilliant- and Daniel Craig is very good in a before he was Bond but why he became him performance as the man on death row who isn't what he seems. Infamous is about horrible things that happen and trying very hard to understand them and make sure they don't happen again- and it's about writers and how they behave, the solitude of Lee but her need for her true friend- the insecurity of artists and of people who cannot be themselves. It's just good, if it hadn't come out when it did I'm sure far more people would have seen it. So if your love film (or insert other film rental method) is feeling a bit gappy and you fancy something thoughtful then queue this one- you'll like it- though you won't like Sandra's Harper hair.

Monday 23 April 2012


Did you watch the documentary about Elizabeth Taylor and her jewellery? I adored every minute of it- and rewatched some of it this weekend. If I had Elizabeth Taylor's intergalactic star quality I would have been just like her- when it came to beauty- though perhaps not marriage. I cannot resist jewellery, it has fascinated me since I was a tiny girl, not in the way it fascinates all women- it's more than that- I can stand entranced in front of a jewellers window- the Burlington Arcade is my idea of a lost paradise and I could walk up and down happily looking at the diamonds, emeralds and sapphires forever.

I suspect if Elizabeth Taylor hadn't been Elizabeth Taylor she would still have cherished the pieces of jewellery she did have- as do I.

I've long been interested in the lesser known stones, the not so valuable but equally fascinating and captivating stones like turquoise and lapis.

Moonstones too can be quite lovely. I found this ring by Monica Vinader and it just said- I am meant for you. Now a lot of rings do say this to me, it's a problem, I am a kind of Dr Doolittle for precious stones. This seems special though, it's not too expensive but it gleams and sparkles and would go with everything. Moonstones are meant to be comforting to nervous souls, like me and I thought it might protect me from some of the less sensitive people I sometimes come across (make of this what you will, I am being deliberately oblique).

So if I can get through the next few days this ring will be mine. I shall have a gold band because I am over that phase of thinking only white metal is sophisticated and I think gold shines like the sun in bad times.

So next time you are jewellery shopping, think about the unusual stones- they are just as prescious, if not just as valueable.

More on moonstones.

And a a brilliant book called Jewels by Victoria Finlay which teaches everything you could want to know about all kinds of jewel stones- the intergalactic and the not so.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Something's Gotta Give interiors- or heaven

Picture the scene, it's a sunny but very cold Saturday afternoon and this blogger's real world life has tired them to the bone.

I know some of you manage sixty hour weeks and then hop up at 7am on Saturdays and do 3 hours of Bikram followed by knitting your own jumpers and cooking a three course lunch but me? This week I'm going to be honest, it's been more wake, drink pot of tea, have a bath, want to go back to bed.

Blogs are aspirational aren't they? They are a five minute escape into how we'd like things to be. Well sometimes this blogger needs to escape.

The television couldn't offer many options but the planner had Something's Gotta Give Something's Gotta Give hiding in a corner. My brain had obviously thought, lovely film the dvd of which you have *somewhere* in storage (many of my possessions are somewhere, somewhere is a very nice chic spot but I can't always find it). So my brain had recorded this for a metaphorical rainy day.

I like this film, it's about older people and love later in life. So it's not anything I know anything about but there is great acting and, if I'm honest, I'm really mostly interested in Diane Keaton's character's house in the film. As many a blogger before me has pointed out this house is the dream house. So chic yet livable that you literally want to jump into the telly box and snap the keys from Keaton's hands.

Here are some stills to feast on, in case you also need a pick me up.

PS. More film interiors so good you will watch the whole movie for them: here (I am also particularly obsessed with Rose cottage in The Holiday).