mardi 11 septembre 2018

Strawberry Fields Whatever

I have alluded here before to how much I adore this blog, but I don't think I have ever directly posted about it. Which I must rectify immediately. It's important.

I think I can say with genuine confidence that Strawberry Fields Whatever is (probably) my favourite blog on all of the Internet. That's a pretty big swing, I know. Just like I can say The Future is my favourite Leonard Cohen song. Except occasionally, when it's I'm Your Man.

Elizabeth Barker is one of my favourite living writers. Yep, she's up there with Emma Forrest and Esther Freud, basically. I love her in the same way I love LA and tacos and Weetzie Bat and crystals and wearing kaftans around the house. I am desperate to go back to LA and her writing makes me feel like I am there.

In fact, it makes me feel very specifically like I am back on that trip there the summer I was 17. When I was kind-of anorexic and totally in love with a boy who was gay, but I was actually pretty happy for those two weeks. We drove from LA to San Francisco. We stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt and I insisted on going to a place called The Black Magic Voodoo Lounge. I bought a skirt from Rodeo Drive, a dress from Goodwill and a Shonen Knife CD - all of which I still have. I had short hair with an undercut and chipped blue nails. I decided I would live in California one day. I still never have.

Anyway, I think I came to Elizabeth through Evan. It's funny the number of sort-of remote acquaintances who came about that way. It's nice, actually. One of the many reasons I always feel fondly towards him. Elizabeth has the same sort of optimistic/melancholy nostalgic voice that he does. It's my favourite sort of a voice.

(Also, have you noticed how everyone I've name-checked in this little missive has the same first initial? It makes me feel cosy, like going out with another Gemini INFP or something.)

I highly recommend signing up to her mailing list, as it gives me a little surge of joy every time I see that a new, glorious post has landed in my inbox.

Take the opening paragraph of this week's, for instance:

I think an ideal relationship dynamic would be where you're like Iggy Pop and David Bowie on the Dinah Shore Show in 1977 - goofy and a little shy and so sweet with each other, but also categorically wild and aware of your wildness without being all impressed with yourself about it. I mean, you can just feel Iggy and Bowie adoring the hell out of each other, and being slightly amused by the whole situation but never giving off some kind of boring you're-not-in-on-the-joke vibe, like a lot of other assholes would. They're so above that! They're so generous about being the wildest thing in the world.

I mean???!!! Come on. PERFECT.

She goes on to talk about McDonalds and Parker Posey and Kristin Hersh and zines and perfect black jeans, and by now I am literally that emoji of a cat with hearts for eyes.

If you are remotely interested in teenage summers, Desperately Seeking Susan, listening to music while driving, never growing out of having ridiculous crushes and always wanting to wear the perfect pair of just-right black jeans, I suggest you sign up immediately.

In recent days, I have also read Ariel Levy's memoir, which left me in pieces and awestruck all at once. I went to a nice party in the countryside. My new favourite restaurant in Brighton is Cin Cin (thanks to a lovely dinner date with Katherine).

I've been thoroughly enjoying running again now that the weather has turned a bit more autumnal. I'm still wearing sandals and my grandmother's old Laura Ashley sundresses, but I'm looking forward to fires and red wine and baked potatoes and blankets. I love the autumn, as well as writing that makes me feel like summer. Still, tonight I'm making vegan tacos for dinner and pretending I'm in LA.

jeudi 30 août 2018

Not In Front Of Family

  • I have been listening to this repeatedly and weeping for a multitude of reasons. It is utterly perfect. Especially the song Not In Front Of Family.
  • I have been making my own homemade vegan Nutella (I am not a vegan) and it is very satisfying, because it’s much greater than the sum of its parts or the effort made in putting them together.
  • Over the years, I have been conflicted in my feelings about the Smashing Pumpkins. However, I must concede that I have recently been educated in how listening to Siamese Dream first thing in the morning gets the day off to an excellent start. Preferably with coffee and crumpets.*
  • Anyway, I am as obsessed as everyone else is with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. It is sweet and lovely and I love it and Peter Kavinsky with all of my haggard but perpetually teenage heart.
  • I read Motherhood by Sheila Heti and I think we probably all should because it has made me feel better about myself and other people and the whole world.
  • I have been to see the Picasso 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern twice now and it is awe-inspiring. On a very basic level, just that he managed to get that much done in the space of one tumultuous year, quite frankly.

*Incidentally, this also prompted a weird realisation that boys seem to use Smashing Pumpkins as a definite wooing tactic. The first time I heard them, it was when an older boy called Jago (dream holiday romance when I was 15) played me Disarm on his Walkman. I carried on listening to the song on repeat long after I went home and went off him.

Then, on my seventeenth birthday, a boy called Futoshi gave me Adore on CD. Futoshi was from Tokyo and played drums in my boyfriend Nico’s band. He confessed his secret crush on me with that present, announcing ‘if you like me, you can kiss me’. I declined and ended up giving the CD to my friend Tommy, as it had also soundtracked his much more grown-up New York holiday romance. Circular, no? I can now see that I was an idiot. That Smashing Pumpkins CD was a sweeter and far more thoughtful gift than Nico ever gave me. He was handsome but flaky (in retrospect I realise: mostly because he didn’t like me that much).

mercredi 22 août 2018

Potential names for a feminist play you wrote with your best friend*

Tissues and Issues
X and Why
I Solemnly F*cking Swear
Til Death Do Us Part
Lawfully Wedded Spinsters
What Would Emmeline Pankhurst Do?
What Would Emmeline Pankhurst NOT Do?
The Fempire Strikes Back
Dearly Beloved
Queerly Beloved
10 Things I Hate About Men
That's What She Said
Commitment Fears And Male Tears
Man-Hating Lesbians
That's What She Didn't Say
Men Are Shit
Ms. Angry
Fucking Autocorrect
Ms. Andry
Dying Alone
7 Things To Do With A Penis (That Aren't Sexy)
Fun Things To Fuck When You're Single
Single And Ready To Die Alone
Single-ty Pleasures
To Hate And To Hold
To Hate And Two Holes
You, Me And The Cat
Single Girls At Weddings
I Feel Like These Are Getting Worse The Drunker I Get
Men Are Shit And I'm Going To Die Alone: A Love Story
Bi The Numbers
Hits And Mrs
I Hate Yourself And Want To Cry: A Comedy
His And Hurls
It's Not Me, It's You
Girls Rule! A Sci-Fi Story
You Say 'Misandry' Like It's A Bad Thing
The Girls You've Read About On Bathroom Doors
Splitting The Bill: A Romantic Comedy

*as suggested by the boy you are going out with, late at night while he is drunk at Edinburgh Fringe (although, full disclosure, I wish I could take credit as these are fucking genius and I am definitely nicking at least one of them for this play and possibly future ones as well...)

mardi 7 août 2018

Swiss Cheese

I highly recommend going on an impromptu holiday to Zurich with a handsome man you barely know, if ever you get the chance. Especially if you take a 6am flight the morning after your dog has just died. Sometimes it turns out that a change of scene and unexpectedly kind company are exactly what you need.

Zurich is lovely. It’s a city perfect for people who don’t like cities. We went hiking up a mountain and swimming in the lake, all within view of skyscrapers and highways. We also took a train to Vaduz in Liechtenstein for the day, because why not go to two different countries if you can? This means you can also take very Instagrammable pictures of each other on the bridge that straddles the border between the two countries, a foot in each one. It’s fun.

We played travel Scrabble and enjoyed the very Heidi-esque train views and tried to decide which mountain cottage we would live in and whether we would ever get bored. We then spent a very pleasant day out in Vaduz, which involved excellent pizza, Shakespearean gangster rap, oversharing conversations, and the Postal Museum (which really delivered a first-class experience, obvs).

We stayed in west Zurich, which for shorthand purposes we just called ‘Brooklyn’. We stayed in a high-up flat with a balcony and a tall twisting staircase and a skylight that reminded me of being at the Chelsea Hotel. Behind our building, there were art studios under railway arches, expensive coffee places, outdoor flea markets and pop-up bars with live jazz and many, many fairy lights, not to mention excellent sweet potato chips.

We walked into downtown Zurich most days, where we looked around old churches and graveyards and botanical gardens, saw Marc Chagall stained glass windows that made me think of Jandy Nelson books, ate a lot more pizza. We drank wine on our balcony while listening to the Tom Waits version of Sea of Love. We ate Frosties for breakfast every day, like children who had been allowed to go on holiday by themselves with no parents, and watched stupid horror films every night under our blankets on the floor.

We missed the World Cup final, and were quietly bemused by the sound of car horns and cheering below our balcony. We ate sandwiches in the park and also drank quite a lot of beers in the park, which seemed like an entirely OK thing to do in Switzerland.

We felt very at home at the Brockenhaus (basically a Swiss version of Snoopers Paradise). We ate chips at the top of a mountain. We sat and looked at views a lot. We talked about a lot of things. We ate noodles in an empty restaurant that played early 90s soft rock.

The very best place in Zurich is the China Garden. It is unimaginably peaceful, whatever else is happening in the world. There are koi carp (you too might want to give them names), and there are pagodas and you can make a wish on a friendly dragon statue as you go in, as long as you step in with the correct foot first. You can spend the whole afternoon lying around half-asleep by the lake, feeling dreamy and with David Bowie songs running through your head. You know, if you want. (Actually, you can't: we did but eventually a security guard woke us up and told us off for lying on the grass).

When it’s time to leave for the airport, you can sit on deck chairs on a terrace overlooking the runway. There you can drink glasses of white wine bought with the last of your Swiss Francs. If you don’t want to go home, maybe you can be secretly relieved when your flight is delayed and you get to stay longer, even if you have an early breakfast meeting with a publisher the next day. You can be sad when it’s all over and you have to go home. But maybe you can decide you will go on holiday together again.

mardi 24 juillet 2018


We didn’t have dogs when I was growing up. We had goldfish. They often came from the fair and lasted a matter of days, if not hours. When I was a teenager, we got a rabbit and a guinea pig, of whom I was quite fond (but not fond enough not to throw a huge strop whenever the time came to clean out their hutch). Honestly, I think the biggest arguments my little sister and I ever had all stemmed from my mum asking on Sunday afternoons ‘have you two cleaned out the rabbit..?’. Cue genuine shudder at the far-too vivid memory of pissy newspaper and carrier bags full of hay and dried poo.

I was into my twenties and living in Brighton when we met Lily. She belonged to an acquaintance of my mum’s who, due to various divorce and relocation dramas, could not keep her. My mum – never hitherto a dog person – agreed to look after her for six months, as a favour.

It was love at first sight, for all of us. I looked into her eyes and I swear that we were instant soul sisters. This was unprecedented. There was nothing I would not have done for her, uncomplainingly.

Lily was the prettiest Yorkshire terrier I had ever seen, but labouring under the misapprehension that she was some sort of fierce wild beast. We should all go through life with the misplaced confidence of Lily. I am also convinced she thought I was the dog and she was the human, and that I was far below her in the family pecking order.

Lily was full of character and sass and idiosyncrasies. She loved eating apple cores, licking empty yoghurt pots, shredding any tissue she could get her paws on, gracefully sidestepping any body of water on tiptoe, savaging her toys, chasing pigeons…

Whenever I went back to my mum’s (which I started doing more often so that I could hang out with my new favourite sibling), she would greet me with the most enthusiastic of welcomes reserved for anyone, because she knew it meant she got to sleep in my bed. Not to mention share my dinner.

I would go and housesit whenever my mum was away, taking days off work so that I could do nothing but hang out with Lily. We would nap together under a blanket, share shepherds pie (‘what shall we have for dinner tonight, Lily?’) and go to bed early so we could hang out and watch TV.

She would come and visit me at the seaside. I would take her out for long walks that I enjoyed far more than she did. There was the time I fell over a tree root and cut my knees, and she tried to attack any animal or human that dared to come within a ten-metre radius of me until, limping and crying, I managed to get us both home.

After six months – thankfully – Lily’s previous owner decided to sign her over to my mum for good. If she hadn’t, my mum, Lily and I were plotting to flee the country together. I will be forever grateful, but also mystified that anyone could have given her up – I would genuinely rather have lived on the street.

We were meant for each other. A shaman told me that my mum and I have been related for lifetimes. I believe Lily was with us, too.

When my mum unexpectedly found herself living alone and going through the worst time imaginable, it was Lily who saved her life. When I was in the depths of depression, sometimes the only thing capable of cheering me up was my mum putting Lily in the car and driving her down to see me.

‘Lily loves you,’ Mum would remind me, whenever I was in need of a boost.

Lily saved us all at one time or another, as my sister pointed out. It’s true.

Nearly two weeks ago, I was staying at my mum’s. Lily was acting strangely. We hoped it was the weather. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t. We slept together on Sunday night but didn’t sleep much. On Monday morning, my mum and I agreed we should take her to the vet. I told work it was a family emergency and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back.

There followed three days of dread, uncertainty and heartbreak. But still, I savoured every moment. How could I not? My mum and I agreed that she would not be left alone for a moment. I stayed up all night stroking her head and listening to her breathing. We cooked her favourite foods and carried her up the stairs to bed. When she became too weak to drink from her bowl, she licked water from my fingers.

She went downhill quickly. She got weaker and weaker. She was brave to the end - and still sassy, growling at the vet when she came for the final time.

We were with her. ‘You are so loved,’ I told her again and again. She knew.

I still can’t believe it. I hated leaving my mum in the house without her; I am dreading going back and Lily not being there – my poor mum is having to deal with that every day, constantly. She can’t go down to the kitchen in the morning or even get home from work at night without crying uncontrollably.

I am sleeping every night with her favourite toy and wearing the tag from her collar. I am so, so sad that she is gone. I wonder if I will ever believe it.

Lilian, nobody could have been more beloved. Our hearts are broken. You gave us all so much. We miss you.

mardi 3 juillet 2018

Ask Polly

Quite some time ago - literally years ago, in fact - my friend Ruth sent me a link to an 'Ask Polly' column. My friend Ruth is really good at sending me stuff I will like. It was entitled 'I Hate Men' so obviously she thought I would relate (ha ha). Not strictly true, but I did find that the incredible advice and use of language made me feel genuinely inspired.

I woke up the other morning* and felt the urge to re-read it. I trawled old emails until eventually I found it** and I was not sorry I did. If anything, I now found the words of advice even more inspirational. I have been reading the entire 'Ask Polly' archive and have found it invaluably wise and true, even when I don't particularly relate to the original problem. It has been making me feel smarter, more thoughtful and - yes - empowered.

In recent readings, I also finished my friend Holly Bourne's 'How Do You Like Me Now?' within a single weekend. I think a lot of - if not all - young women should treat it as required reading. I am only young-ish (if that, by this point, really?) and I still found it funny, sad, true and thought-provoking.

I've taken up 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' again and remembered how much I enjoyed it.

I went to film club and we forgot to watch the film because we were having far too much fun.

I went to see Jack White and he surpassed all my expectations and all gigs should have no phones.

I am going on an impromptu holiday to Zurich next week. If and when it's possible, I would say that booking surprise travel is Good For The Soul. The prospect of travel to a new place has perked me right up.

Before then, I will be watching two of my best friends get married, surrounded by loved ones and glitter and joy, and I cannot wait.

* This morning I woke up with 'Spin the Bottle' by Juliana Hatfield stuck in my head. You just can't pick and choose! However, it has made me want to listen to the 'Reality Bites' soundtrack.

** I also spent a frankly embarrassing amount of time over the past few weeks searching for an article I once read about how Anthony Bourdain is the Queen of Coins. It was perfect. Thankfully, finally - here it is.

lundi 25 juin 2018

You Learn

Remember the old Alanis Morrisette song?

Well, here's mine.

  • I recommend taking vitamin D supplements. It's really helped me.
  • I recommend listening to 'Bled White' by Elliott Smith on a Saturday morning.
  • I recommend burning sage whenever it feels even a tiny bit like it might be a good idea.
  • I recommend re-reading 'Heartburn' and admitting to yourself that if Nora could find the comedy in that whole situation, you can certainly do the same.
  • I recommend the new Glossier perfume, even if you're too old to be a millennial.
  • I recommend cooking on a Sunday. It makes you feel more in control of the world.
  • I recommend opening the windows.
  • I recommend watching 'Ibiza' on Netflix and eating pizza with a great girlfriend and not worrying you're basic.
  • I recommend taking a couple of Valium and sticking 'Love Island' on if it all gets A Bit Much, TBH.
  • I recommend Yoga With Adriene. Obviously.
  • I recommend listening to Belinda Carlisle in the bath.
  • I recommend chanting, even though I usually forget to.
  • I recommend reading the archive of Strawberry Fields Whatever.
  • I recommend watching a really scary horror film when you need taking out of your own life.
  • I recommend Dear Joan and Jericha.
  • I recommend running things into the ground, flogging dead horses for longer than any sane person would, praying to gods that you know full well don't exist, and never learning any of the lessons anyway
  • I recommend Epsom salt baths.