mercredi 28 décembre 2011

2011 in shorthand: Cinema

I haven't been to the cinema nearly enough this year.  Trawling through my diary for the things I've seen on the big screen - which means I may well have missed loads of them - this year's outings included:

Black Swan
The first thing I saw at the pictures this year, and possibly the best.  I loved how it divided the audience into those who were spellbound and those who were lol-ing.  I was in the first category - unsurprising, as I think you'd have a hard time cramming more Stuff I Love into one film.

Royal Wedding
Yes, I went to see it at my local cinema.  I turned up at 9am with my friend Kirsten, ate snacks, drank Champagne, sobbed continuously, and then went for breakfast afterwards.  A great day.

A new favourite - I love Kristen Wiig, and this was such smart writing that I may as well have been watching myself on the screen (I have been a bridesmaid A LOT).  I know many feminists who had misgivings - I don't really care, it made me laugh and it felt positive and  it had Wilson Philips.

Harry Potter
I always think I don't like Harry Potter, until I do.  Always a nice one to see in a crowded theatre - we all stood up and cheered for Hot Neville.

X-Men: First Class
A surprise entry into my favourite films of all-time.  Jane Goldman's influence was obvious, which was mostly what made this so cool and 60s-pop as well as action-classic.  I love how the X-Men films use incongruously great actors, which elevates the entire proposition - McAvoy and Fassbender were awesome.

samedi 24 décembre 2011

The Perfect Rock Wife

Here is a (very silly) short story that I wrote, about my (sob - I don't even know them, obviously!) feelings on Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore splitting up.  Devastated, frankly.  It's based on real-life events - ask me and I'll tell you.  Or not, whatever.

The Perfect Rock Wife
Think Kim not Courtney. Think Kim not Nancy. Think Kim Kim Kim. Think Kim and Thurston. Of course.

It’s an important day. It’s a constant mantra.

She picks up a red lipstick. She puts it back down. She goes for the mascara, to match the Breton stripe, the lovely, comfortable shoe, the appropriate miniskirt, the cleaned teeth and careless hair. No dirty boots here, please. Not any more.

My friend Goo has a real tattoo. She always knows just what to do.

It’s no joke. It’s the way to live. Happiness is feeling good about yourself. Sticking with things, doing it your own way, living in a town full of lesbians and one day bringing out a clothing line for the cool middle-aged. That’s what it’s all about. Sonic life.

She is satisfied. A vintage satchel full of books and an ironic bicycle. A vinyl collection and a kitchen full of cast offs. She is ready.

Her phone beeps, modernly. It’s her best friend Lou; she has bad news. Good things don’t usually start with ‘I’ve got some bad news’ – this girl knows that much.

It’s not just any old bad news, either. It’s Kim and Thurston. It’s sticking with things and living your values and wearing the perfect A-line skirt and living in that town full of lesbians.

The future of Sonic Youth is uncertain, apparently. Same goes for her faith in the world, frankly.

I feel like I’m disappearing. I’m getting smaller every day.

But when I look into your eyes… I’m bigger in every way.

Kiss me on kiss me on the lips.

Sonic life.

mardi 20 décembre 2011

Living The Life

I love it when Favourite Things come together.  Namely, two ladies whom I love separately and equally joining together in predictably witty conversation.  Two wommen I have long admired and would like to be friends with.

Fay Weldon and Caitlin Moran, in conversation on fancy sofas on the Sky Arts programme 'Living The Life'.  Basically, just talking for a while.

I fully recommend it if you can get hold of it.  In the meantime, here are my highlights:

Fay says that girl children never fully trust their mothers!

Caitlin says that she never would have found a boyfriend in a world pre-The Smiths!  Or REM.

Fay's second husband didn't like her writing because he didn't like the sound of a typewriter!  Or was it all a ruse to stifle her creativity?

Caitlin says boys just want you to wear a T-shirt and eat  cornflakes!

I agree with basically all that they said.  In fact, I wish I could have joined in.  Or that they could have just kept talking all night.  At my kitchen table.  With me.  And a bottle of wine and an olive.

You get it.

lundi 19 décembre 2011

In praise of... Emma Forrest

Dear Emma Forrest,

I'm really glad that you exist.

Firstly, because I love your work.  In this order, your books are some of my favourites: Cherries In The Snow, Your Voice In My Head, Damage Control, Namedropper.

When 'Your Voice In My Head' came out this year, I read it in one gulpy sitting and then it stayed by my bath and then my bed for most of the year.  It's now on the edge of the bookshelf, by itself, easy to get to.  I believe this is progress.

You make me feel hopeful because I think your brain and your body are both kind of like mine but better.  You had the kind of precocious career that I fully expected for myself and in my case only kind of happened.

Without meaning to sound creepy, I think if we met we'd probably be friends.  Maybe not.  You never can tell.  It's about magic as much as stuff in common, isn't it?  However, I think we'd have fun watching films and talking about Bruce and music and other cool stuff, swappping clothes and going running or to yoga together then having a cup of tea.

Thanks for doing good writing and living well these days.  Keep on keeping on.

All best,


mercredi 30 novembre 2011

Ideal Schedule

Recently, my boyfriend and  were out for a walk and saw that a house has gone up for sale in our 'dream road', close to where we currently live (but obviously way nicer) in Brighton.

We can't afford it, and probably never will.  But dreaming about my dream house also got me dreaming about my dream schedule.

Because living in a house like that would mean that the stars had all lined up and I could live my dream life.  This is what it looks like.

I would wake up early, take my small dog for a walk and then have a delicious and healthy breakfast.  Get dressed in smart work clothes and head upstairs to my office; my office is high up, on the top floor and with a lovely view of the Brighton roftops and sky.  It is also beautifully decorated, Farrow and Ball-ed to the nines, with a variety of inspirational pictures in antique frames on the walls (you know, maybe one of Virginia Woolf to celebrate the fact that I finally have 'a room of one's own', and other such brilliant people that might make me work harder), all of my books, an ancient desk and contrasting 'ghost' chair and maybe a squashy velvety sofa for moments that need a comfortable mull.  It's all mine so it's ridiculously girlie, probably the only room in the house that will be.

I'll wok hard for the morning, then break at lunchtime to - as I like to say - get out of my brain and into my body, which is where most of my good ideas come from.  By this, I mean spend an hour doing something purely physical, like going for a long run, going to a dance class or maybe hot yoga.  Usually it ends up being a run, as I can just put my trainers on and go - that probably own't change.

Then back to work for the afternoon, with a mid-afternoon snack and cup of tea, and probably a pace.  As my commute home will involve only walking down the stairs, I can work pretty late and it won't matter - so I'll probably keep clattering away until around seven, when I will go downstairs to cook supper, drink some wine, talk to my boyfriend about his day in the basement music studio, and maybe watch a good film before going to bed late.

That's the ideal schedule.  Too much to ask?

samedi 26 novembre 2011

50 Words for Wuthering Heights

I love Kate Bush.  I am listening to her as I type.

She's one of those marvels to me - literally, 'is she real'?  From Wuthering Heights to Running Up That Hill (basically the whole of Hounds of Love), to Babooshka, Rubber Band Girl and the present day.  She came fully-formed (see also: Polly  Harvey, Rimbaud) and just gets better.

Having been introduced to it a couple of nights ago by my gorgeous hairdresser Jonathan, 50 Words for Snow is going to be my constant listening for the winter.  I can already tell.

I went to my amazing local record shop to buy it this morning (Resident, see sidebar).  They have a lovely thing there, of writing their own explanatory/helpful notes, stuck to the cover of each album.  Wonderfully, this one started 'The story of her intense relationship with a snowman...'.  How could you not pick it up?!

Kate has so many of the qualities that are my constant loves: massive hair, theatricality, a relatively normal personal life despite her creative gifts, a fondness for leotards and chiffon...

But you don't need me to tell you that she's greatter than the sum of those ridiculously amazing parts.

50 Words for Snow - the only winter listening that will ever be happening in my house now.

vendredi 25 novembre 2011

On Writing

I'm adding a new 'tag'*.

It might seem weird that I haven't included a 'writing' tag in this little account thus far.  It is the most important thing in my life and the thing that I spend the most time doing.

It's just that it seems a bit... I believe the technical term is: wanky.  I'm not an expert or even really a professional.  Still that doesn't stop me writing about most things so...

Screw it.  Expect wanky posts on writing and maybe even 'my creative process' (the second one was a joke), post haste.

*I'm also making announcements to nobody**!

** As I haven't yet told anybody about this little weblog - I'll explain later.

jeudi 17 novembre 2011

In Short

In no particular order, here is what is getting me through these autumn/winter days:

  • This is the best thing you have ever seen in your life.  I literally cannot stop watching it.  I die. (Thanks, Neil!)
  • American Vintage vest tops - so worth the extra money.
  • Babyliss Big Hair - I tried my sister's and now I'm counting down the minutes until I can get one of my own.  So grown up!  So shiny!
  • Porridge.
  • That's kinda it.  Dog days.

vendredi 11 novembre 2011


Just because it's one of the most perfect song/video/hair combinations in existence.  I could not love it more.

jeudi 10 novembre 2011

The Only Way Is

I have become something of a TOWIE fan.  I am not ashamed.  I don't care who knows it.

As with so many of these things, my sister started it.

I'm sure you know all about TOWIE and I don't need to explain it here (unless you're one of my sneery, cultural-snob friends - hiya!).  I will say that I especially like Amy, Harry, Arg and Gemma; I think Lydia is really pretty; and, sadly, I don't think the new series is quite as good as the earlier ones.

Most importantly, here is why I have got slightly hooked on TOWIE, yet could not sit through more than five minutes of 'Made In Chelsea'*:

It's an important distinction.  I do not like to watch posh, rich kids with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement who really need to get a crap job for a while; I am all for funny, sparky people making themselves interesting for the sake of attention.  This applies to most of the cast of TOWIE as much as it does to Issie Blow, Gilbert and George, Edie Sedgwick, and many more of my all-time heroes.

* They're not even from Chelsea!  I have it on good authority.

lundi 7 novembre 2011

Books and Bands (again)

Inspired by a combination of my recent 'Books & Bands' jaunt (see previous post), and my current readng matter - the music and literature crossover starts here...

So, I'm currently reading the culty novel 'Perfume' by Patrick Suskind.  Frankly, I can't believe it's taken me this long.  This is because - as you may well know - it was famously a favourite of my old hero Kurt Cobain, and the song 'Scentless Apprentice' (from my joint-favourite album of all time 'In Utero') was inspired by it.

I have, predictably, been marvelling at every single traceable Cobain-cite - of which there are a gratifying amount.  'Like most babies smell like butter' from there on in.

Equally as predictably, this has got me thinking: my favourite book and band crossovers.

Yes, of course there are enough for a list!

Our Lady of the Flowers by Placebo
Placebo being my favourite band at the age of fifteen was a good thing on many levels (see also: bruise-coloured make-up, fake furs, chopping all my hair off, and my stepdad thinking I was a lesbian).  One of these was that they introduced me to Jean Genet.  True story - upon reading up on this song and discovering that it was inspired by the novel of the same name, I immediately headed for my local bookshop and had it ordered in specially.  It's still a favourite.

Jean Genie by David Bowie
And Molko wasn't the first to write a song about Jean Genet.  I particularly like this one as it is based upon the fact that Bowie had only seen the name Jean Genet in print, and had been mispronouncing it in his head - something I still do often with all sorts of names and words, causing frequent embarrassment.

Angelene by PJ Harvey
In another ultimate crossover of my favourite things of all time, in the world, ever: this song from the sublime album 'Is This Desire?' quotes from  JD Salinger's short-story compilation 'For Esme With Love & Squalor': "pretty mouth and green my eyes".  A beautiful line worth quoting, and I simply cannot overstate my love of the afore-mentioned short-story collection.  Although my favourite story of the bunch - in fact, my favourite short story of all time - is 'Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut'.

Space Dog by Tori Amos
My favourite Tori song, and one that is guaranteed to get me dancing whatever the time, place, or inappropriate situation.  I defy you not to.  Also notable for the line "seems I keep getting the story twisted/ so where's Neil when you need him" - among so many classic lines in this song, this one references Neil Gaiman.  Gaiman is, of course, an amazing writer with many strings to his bow (my favourite being his epic novel 'American Gods'),  and also a good friend of Tori's.  Although apparently he wasn't yet when she wrote it - at that stage, she was just a fan.  Cooler still.

vendredi 4 novembre 2011

Book Club Corner

No wonder I look so contented.  I was at a night, in a pub in Mile End, called 'Bands & Books'.  If you've ever met me, and possibly if you haven't, you'll know that this was exciting stuff for ECW.  Seriously, you know that song from Flight of the Conchords, What If The World Was More Like In My Dreams..?  Well, that.

For the record, I was wearing vintage Luella, reading 'The Best of Everything', and drinking a gin and tonic.

mercredi 2 novembre 2011


Tom's 31st birthday, and the best time of year for walking on Brighton beach!

lundi 31 octobre 2011

This Much I Issie Blow

Vintage food for thought today, from the inimitable, fabulous and brilliant late Isabella Blow.  This was her contribution a few years ago to the Guardian's regular 'This Much I Know' feature.  Hilarious, self-aware and occasionally even useful, at the time I saved it to turn to for advice in future moments of crisis.

  • A hat is like cosmetic surgery, you will always look better. It's one of the reasons why in the past everyone wore a hat - if you didn’t you'd be considered the equivalent of what I am today, an alien.
  • Put your bosom on the shelf and you won't stay on the shelf for very long. If you have a good chest, get it out for summer. Similarly, if you have a small waist, wear a wide belt. For winter, it's more about refinement and strictness.
  • I look back at the times I used to change outfits four times a day with a sense of wonder. These days I can barely manage to get changed once.
  • I'm a love addict. If someone speaks to me in a certain way, with a certain charm, they've got the job.
  • I love the chav, it's brand obsession and it's tremendous fun. They're like cartoon characters. When you spot them in the street you always have a really good laugh. Surely they don't take themselves seriously?
  • I usually take advice from my sister, even though she's younger than me. 'You absolutely must wear a sports bra,' she said to me when she heard I was taking up tennis. And she asked me to leave Christie's this morning - she works there, and I was there to buy a painting with Philip Treacy. She thought my cleavage inappropriate for an auction house.
  • There's no point clomping round like a duck in flat shoes. I buy three pairs of shoes a year, Manolos preferably. I can only afford three pairs.
  • There are so many stories about my family, it makes my head spin. My grandfather, Sir Henry 'Jock' Delves Broughton, was an alleged murderer who committed suicide by injecting himself with heroin, and my grandmother listed herself in Who's Who as a one-time cannibal. I'm not sure if that's true, but she definitely caught the biggest tuna fish ever caught in European waters.
  • Tracksuit bottoms for lunch, dinner, or in fact any time except for sport are completely unacceptable. You can't see a person's figure in them, for starters.
  • If I had my time again perhaps I'd try instant gratification.
  • I've always gone for seduction - a three-month trial period where I see someone every day, and by the end of it you just explode. That's my style.
  • It makes me livid to think about the clothes I've lost at the dry cleaners. Now I've got tops but not bottoms, or bottoms without tops. Absolutely maddening.
  • I need photographers. Thank God they have the ability to photograph the clothes. They keep me alive.
  • Being neurotic is bad for managing your life, but it keeps you thin. That's why I'm a size 8.
  • It's a massive shock to be disinherited. My father was tremendously wealthy, so I was used to money. I knew he was disappointed in me - he thought Tatler was a magazine for drug dealers, for goodness sake - but I didn't expect to be left only £5,000. I can still hardly speak about it.
  • You can't wear gloss lipstick if you're a smoker, like me. It all comes off. Anyway, if you're painting your face there's something appropriate about painting on your red lips with proper lipstick.
  • The shows are as exhausting as everyone says. 'Treat yourself like a racehorse before,' a friend advised me, but I never manage to. I do have a faith healer though. He plays with my energy and makes me more positive. He's my rock, I suppose. But I have to go all the way to Worthing once a week. Or is it Woking?
  • In life you begin with a charm bracelet, and gradually the charms drop off. Being charming, being charmed, I adore it all. An American ex-lover rang me out of the blue recently and said, 'I'm driving past Vogue house and it made me think of you.' How gorgeous. You need charm more and more as you get older.
  • It's so hard when you can't help discovering people. Eventually you think, what do I have for myself?
  • Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen, Sophie Dahl - I discovered them all. But I don't really want to discover anyone ever again.
  • Great fashion talents come around every 10 years. There will never be another Alexander McQueen, but there will be another fabulous talent. I wish they were like flowers and you could stick them in a vase, but it doesn't work like that.

vendredi 28 octobre 2011


I kknow, I know - it's not Hallowe'en yet.  However, it's always the closest Saturday to Hallowe'en that's the important date, right?  So, you might want a bit of advance notice in which to formulate your film/outfit/snack choices.

I love Hallowe'en.  Everything about it.  In my long-ago (sigh) party gal days, my costume would be at the centre of my thoughts for weeks in advance.  These days, I'm afraid, the video selections are.

So, in short, my favourite all-time scary movies (not Showgirls):

The Exorcist An obvious one, but that's because it's, hands-down, the scariest effing movie ever made.  The book is even worse (as horror books usually are, which is why I largely avoid them - to avoid a rehash of that time I read a book about Charlie anson and lunged for my erstwhile flatmate with the fire poker when she got in from a night out; bulltrue).  Maybe it's my Catholic-girl schooling, but any quasi-religious stuff (see also: The Omen, Stigmata, even Arnie in End of Days) terrifies the crap out of me.  This one is the mistress.

The Innocents Based, as quite a few things are, on The Turn of the Screw.  My mum and I watched this late at night once - years ago,  by mistake - and, basically, we still haven't got over it.  Genuinely chilling, in the way that only buttoned-up, black-and-white Victoriana can be.

The Tenant All 70s horror films are superior, in my book (prime examples include Don't Look Now, The Wicker Man, Amityville - I think I've got the decade of all of these classics right, but I'm not promising).  There's something really spooky about them, which is why the Amityville remake with Ryan Reynolds worked - because they painstakingly preserved and recaptured that weird vibe.  Obviously it's another Polanski masterpiece that's the well-known one (and rightly so, kinda) - but this one is even weirder, brilliant, and well worth a look.

Drag Me to Hell Among all these cinematic classics, I want something modern and silly.  This is the best I've seen this decade.  Silly, jumpy, topical,  fab.  In fact, I went to see it at the cinema on my birthday.  And then had lunch at Nando's.  Hell yeah, I know how to live.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark 'But you can call me...tonight.'  Because after all that, you'll need some comedy/horror/smut/fun.  I love Elvira.  This is why I based my look on her for most of the early-00s and still give her a nod sometimes.  I can recite this film word-perfect, with good reason. 

Some other Hallowe'en facts:
  • These films will go best with home-made hotdogs and enough Diet Cokes to swim in.  That's what I'll be doing come Saturday night, anyway.
  • The best Hallowe'en costume I ever wore was also the simplest to think up.  A towel, a shower cap, some fake blood.  Et voila.  Janet Leigh in Psycho, which should probably also be on this list.
  • Other rocking Hallowe'en costumes I have, um, rocked: dead AP girl; Nancy from The Craft (aka one of the greatest films ever made), with three of my gothed-up girlfriends to make up the rest of the coven; Reagan from The Exorcist (which was so authentically terrifying that my sister screamed uncontrollably when she first laid eyes upon me - she was dressed up as a pumpkin at the time, amusingly).
  • My stepdad once made me and Rachael cry by constructing a Freddie-hand with which to torment us straight after we had just watched Johnny Depp get eaten and regurgitated by his bed.

lundi 24 octobre 2011

So Much For That

I recently had a think about my favourite books - in fact, for my 'profile' page for this very blog, in which I thought of many favourites to share.

A weird tendency I noted in myself was that I felt as though I should only include books that I had known and loved for a long time - I suppose so that I knew that they had already stood the test of time and really were 'favourites'.

This occurred to me because I found myself quibbling with myself at the inclusion of 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' by Lionel shriver in my list of all-time best books.  In the end, I did put it in there - along with some other newer books I've been impressed by, once I started thinking about it ('The Rehearsal' by Eleanor Catton and 'What Was Lost' by Catherine O'Flynn spring to mind).

I'm glad I did, because I think 'Kevin' is a actually one of the most perfect books I have ever read - I read it and felt that there wasn't a word out of place in the entire thing (the only other example of that I can think of is 'The Bell Jar').  I recently re-read it and was equally as struck by its power, both in the writing and the content, but found that my views and sympathies had subtly changed.  Even more interesting.

I have recently finished reading Lionel Shriver's newest book, 'so Much For That' and was at least very nearly as impressed, possibly, on reflection, as much.  She is a genius at writing 'issue-led' novels, that still deliver equally on character and plot.  It's rare that I've read a book (outside of historical fiction, certainly) and felt that I have been educated, entertained and moved in equal measure.

I think both books are modern masterpieces and she is definitely now firmly in my 'favourite authors' list.

jeudi 20 octobre 2011


I am fond of saying that my favourite Beatle is Paul, but my favourite Stone is Anita.  Yeah, I'm not really the biggest Stones fan - I can see that they're great and important, obviously, but I don't own any of their abums, and only really know the classics.

OK, but really my favourite Stone is Keith.  Even more so, now that I have read his autobiography 'Life' (co-written by James Fox, writer/journalist/husband of Bella Freud, my favourite knitwear designer).  I a a complete and total Keef convert, as, I am sure, is everyone who has read this book.

It is pretty much the most charming, honest, hilarious and generous-spirited book ofits type, by such a megastar.

I only really bought it in the first place because I am generally obsessed with that whole 60s music/fashion decadent vibe - I really just wanted to find out more about Anita and Marianne (both of whom I really am obsessed with), louche happenings in Morocco and Cheyne Walk.  By the end, I am simply obsessed (and slightly in love with) Keith throughout the ages.

I was moved to tears by his writing on about his son Tara, I was more fascinated than I cared to admit by his relationship with Keith, and even thoroughly entertained by pages, pages and yet more pages on the riveting subject of open tuning.  For the latter portions, my boyfriend and I were actually reading in tandem from the same book.  The main thing that came across was his genuine and completely undimmed love for music.

I was also pretty impressed by his recipe for bangers and mash.  Not kidding.

In fact, if he didn't have the habit of fondly calling women 'bitches' with casual alacrity, I'd say Keef was pretty mucch perfect.

lundi 17 octobre 2011

80s Child

Sweeping statements are never a good idea.  (Ha!  See what I did there?!)

I recently heard someone saying "no good music ever came out of the 80s".  This made me cross, not only because I am a child of the early 80s.  Because it's just a silly thing to say.

To that, my answer is: The Smiths, Echo and The Bunnymen, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, REM, The Cure, Madonna, Prince, New Order (and of course Joy Division just scraped the 80s, but I still think of them as more late-70s), Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Husker Du, Mudhoney, The Sugarcubes, Siouxie and The Banshees, Kate Bush, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Big Black, The Fall, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Junior, The Wedding Present, Fugazi, Slint...

Not to mention all of the artists maybe not primarily associated with the 80s but putting out great work (with very 80s production values) during this time: Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney...

And of course some of my favourite bands of all time who will forever be linked to the 90s in public imagination, but had their roots firmly in the 80s: Nirvana, Hole, The Lemonheads, Lush...

So, to those who say there is no good music ever to come out of the 80s - I've told you a million times not to exaggerate.

dimanche 16 octobre 2011

Sonic Life

Today, I am mostly GUTTED that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have split up.  They have been married since 1984, and worked together since before that; they celebrated their marriage with a trip to the cinema and matching 'Sonic Life' tattoos (amazing); they have always seemed so grounded, so creatively brilliant, so sensible.  So long my go-to inspiration for how to live beautifully, basically.

Apparently the future of Sonic Youth is 'uncertain'.  So is my faith in the world, now.

In a semi-vain attempt to cheer myself up, let's be reminded of the good times...

mercredi 12 octobre 2011

Con Heir

As a consumer of any kind, there is one thing that makes me really cross.  I seem to have been noticing it more and more lately.

That's feeling like people are trying to con me.  I don't mind commerciality, but I don't like it pretending to be something it isn't.

Where I live, in Brighton, the big Borders has now turned into the big Urban Outfitters.  I have long been a bit suspicious of Urban Outfitters, despite never having set foot in the place; a friend suggested that something I wanted to buy may have been available there, so I took a deep breath and braved it.  It was just so depressing - over-priced mass-produced sh*t being sold under the guise of being 'original' and, god forbid, 'quirky'.  A Nirvana T-shirt and a Guns n Roses T-shirt NEXT TO EACH OTHER with no sense of irony - even sharing a little plaque that explained their musical relevance, as if the two were even related!

Now, I appreciate that when I was growing up, in a small and very ordinary town when the internet was only just getting big, this sort of store would have been a dream come true - an accessible place for buying things that I would have thought were 'individual'.  It's just that there seems to be a lot of very homogenised individuality going on these days - Alexa Chung is not a maverick just because she shows acres of bare leg rather than cleavage, and the fact that people seem to think that this is so is very, very weird to me.

Anyway, where I live, in Brighton - where there are hundreds of brilliant independent shops and artists selling their wares - there is NO EXCUSE for Urban Outfitters.  If you live somewhere less rad, go on Etsy!  Support people doing genuinely independent and creative things!

While we're on the subject, this makes me nearly as cross as All Saints buying up sites in places like Camden and Portobello and trying to make them look like cool independents, whilst at the same time actually forcing independents out.  Gross and really not OK - do something about it.  Equally, if you have an excellent shop near you, use it or lose it!  You can't buy all of your books from Amazon and then be disappointed when your local bookshop closes down!

It reminds me of the flawed but very interesting book, 'Pop Co' by Scarlett Thomas - I strongly suggest a read.

I feel similarly about Florence and the Machine.  I bought her first record, thinking she looked kind of interesting - I thought it was really patchy but had a couple of good songs.  What I was surprised and disappointed to see, however, was that most of the songs (including, let's face it, the good ones) were written by long lists of people, many of whom I had heard of as seasoned musicians and songwriters (Steve Mackey from Pulp, for instance).

Then a friend told me that he'd been to see Florence live back when she was pretty unknown, back before she was styled by Grace Woodward - she had been considerably bigger (no bad thing, as she is now very much fashion-skinny) and wearing a preppy look of jeans, shirt, loafers, etc...

Now I have no problem with Florence Welch; I do have a problem with being sold the idea that she is an artist in the tradition of Kate Bush or Siouxie Sioux, when she patently, um, isn't.  Her 'eccentricities' seem to be less the product of art school sensibility, and more the product of meetings in offices at record companies.

It's an idea that's wearing thin.  Her new single, co-written by the person who writes Will Young's songs, is such a sub-standrad rip-off of the far superior Bat for Lashes, that if I was Natasha Khan (a true art school visionary) I would be laughing my head off whilst considering legal action.

As Cat Power said: 'to me, indie means individuality, and you can't buy individuality - sorry!', to all of those people trying to rip off her look and her sound, not to mention her charming persona that just can't be faked.  Sadly, people will always try.

It's why the success of the genuinely talented, unique and truly different Amy Winehouse lands us with years of Duffy and Adele.  Why Nirvana left us with a legacy of Bush.  Why Anna Calvi will never be as good as PJ Harvey.  The reason why Kate Moss looks so good is that she seeks out the original - if she's wearing a Pistols T-shirt, it will be an original Westwood one, rather than a copy.  And that is why 'Kate Moss for Topshop' makes you look like the opposite of Kate Moss.

You can't buy it.  Sorry!

lundi 10 octobre 2011

How To Be A Woman

So, my sister just finished reading ‘How To Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, which I had given her.  She loved it, as did I.

We laughed and laughed at the lovely/funny/mean relationship between Caitlin and her sister Caz, and my sister mentioned the silly bits that she thought sounded like something I’d say (like that she realised she was in love with her future husband because she had a dream about it!).

It’s a really funny book, but also has some really sensible ideas that make me want to give it to all of the young women I know.  Like, wondering why none of us had ever heard of Brazilian waxes 20 years ago but now we’re all expected to have them; why being able to run in your shoes should be a basic requirement; as well as some extremely sensible views on abortion and women’s reproductive rights.

One of the many ways in which I identified with Caitlin was being someone who discovered feminism at a young age, so in that respect she was preaching to the choir – I think anyone who doesn’t call themselves a feminist, male or female, is an idiot (although I have long described myself as ‘hardcore’ feminist, rather than Caitlin’s chosen ‘strident’); I seldom wear heels these days and if they do they are anomalous ones that I can actually walk and dance in.  I get very annoyed with people who refuse to describe themselves as feminists – for instance, I adore Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes to the point of fan-worship, but I was really disappointed recently to read an interview where she said (yawn yawn stupid yawn) ‘I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist’ (and I wish she wouldn’t show her tummy so much, but that’s really none of my business).

So, although I may already have been singing from the same song sheet, I am thrilled that there is now a book that has the same ideas as I have, but in much more fun and funny form, that I can pass around to all of the women in my life.  Whether you have always had the same concerns as its author or not, there is no denying that this is a sensible, wise and hilarious book that sounds like it was written by your cooler, funnier mate from the pub.  Win all round.

I don’t agree with everything that she says – I think the chapter on cosmetic surgery is a bit simplistic and quite insulting (I don’t want to have any myself and I wish that other people wouldn’t, but I think her blanket contempt of not only cosmetic surgery but the women who have it, goes against her own theory of ‘good manners’); I think to cast yourself as a grand dame at the age of thirty-five is a bit rich; although there is a whole chapter on ‘why you shouldn’t have children’ (as well as a chapter on why you should), I felt as though the subtext of this was ‘if you’re lazy, unlike me!’ (although that could be because I’m a childless woman and she is not, so perhaps if the roles were reversed so would the argument be slightly skewed, however accidentally).

Still, these are pretty minor gripes.  I don’t have to agree with her on everything – I’m sure Caitlin would agree that this is part of How To Be A Woman, to pick what you agree with and what you don’t, to formulate your own opinions on things.

Mainly, I’m very, very glad that this book exists, and I will be buying it for a lot of people this Christmas – and I hope it will make lots more women understand what it means and thus WANT to stand up and say ‘I AM A HARDCORE/STRIDENT FEMINIST’.

mercredi 5 octobre 2011

Somewhere (in LA)

I love California and lately have been having a real hankering to go back there.  This state has not been helped by repeated watching of Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous film “Somewhere”, set entirely at the Chateau Marmont, where I am desperate to stay.

Last time I stayed in LA – a decade ago, basically! – we stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt, which was one of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed in.  Old school Hollywood, full of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.  We had a family holiday roadtrip, where we flew to LA, then drove up the coast with many stops on the way, before flying home from San Francisco.

I loved the entire trip like nothing else on earth.  I have always had a lot of love for America – although lots of you don’t think that’s ‘cool’, I don’t care and I adore it!  My stepdad lived in California for some years, so going with him I have always felt almost like a native, or certainly connected to the place with an insider’s perspective by proxy.

When I was much younger, I always maintained that I would live in San Francisco one day.  Now, I think I live in Britain’s answer to San Francisco (Brighton) – seriously, I have always found the similarities, both geographic and cultural, between the two cities to be striking.  But now I find myself obsessing over LA.

I am desperate to go back.  As soon as possible.  I definitely want this to be my next big trip (the last being my solo NYC mission to the Hotel Chelsea for my 29th birthday).  The time has come and I am plotting…

lundi 3 octobre 2011

The Grind

I remember reading an article once, in which someone - I can't remember who it was, but it was a writer - said that they absolutely loathed the process of writing, hated every minute of it, every time until the book was finished.

How stupid, I thought.  Why do something if you don't enjoy it?  It's not like the world needs more people to write books, really.  Then Will Self waded into the debate, saying that he loved everything about writing - the sitting alone, the thinking, the typing, the stationery - and that it would be stupid to bother doing it if he didn't.  Yes, that's right, Will Self gets it, I thought.  I love Will Self.

Then today I just read Edward St Aubyn saying the same thing in an interview - he hates the process of writing.  BUT he feels 'better and clearer' when each book is finished.  The writing itself he finds traumatic and tiring and unenjoyable.

It's got me thinking about this question again.  This is because I absolutely love Edward St Aubyn and all of his books, and I can understand why he would feel like this, considering their subject matter.  Plus, if those books didn't exist - they'd remained unwritten because Edward St Aubyn didn't enjoy writing - then I'd bevery sad.  So, maybe (gasp!) I was wrong.

What do you think?  Do you spend time doing anything (non-essential - I don't mean cleaning or washing or the like!) that you hate the process of, because the results are worth it?  I would love to know.

In the meantime, I cannot suggest strongly enough that you read Edward St Aubyn's books (although you may have done so already).  I started late, with the astonishing 'Mother's Milk' and then worked my way back, then waited with baited breath for his most recent 'At Last'.

It is a well known fact that many of his books (primarily his masterpieces about the Melrose family) are based on his own experiences, primarily of his dysfunctional family and the abuse he suffered from his father.  However, that really does not do the books themselves justice - they are not misery lit, because instead of misery there is beautiful writing, rapier wit and, very occasionally, flashes of beating heart.

mercredi 28 septembre 2011


I read an interesting theory recently, one that's got me thinking.  Basically, it was claiming that the 'craft' movement - i.e., the popularity of things like knitting, crochet, baking, making cards; decorative arts, if you will - were anti-feminist.

This is an old argument, but this time it wasn't saying that women shouldn't be forced back into the 1950s by being made to make things themselves and expected to be good at this as traditionally 'feminine' pastimes.

It was saying that women are being encouraged to make decorations and bake cakes and knit scarves, so that they can 'waste' their creative energies on these things, instead of focussing on 'important' artistic pursuits such as learning an instrument or writing a novel or making a film.  Like, it's a conspiracy to distract us.

I have to admit it, it's an interesting one.  I'm not sure I agree, but I can see the point.  I know loads of girls wo make fiddly little thingss like jewellery, but not that many who are in bands or making films.  They are outnumbered by the boys I know on that front.  I know loads of girls who write, but that may be due to my own personal circumstances rather than actual statistics.

The point is, everyone I know who makes stuff enjoys it.  Shouldn't that be the point?  If we're looking at it like that - like, we're not all in it for success and money and other such evil (ha!) things, then why is making music or writing novels any more valid than baking a cake or turning a T-shirt into a halterneck dress?  I suppose the results are more lasting, but it's all good, right?  It's better than watching the telly or getting drunk at a bus-stop.

So, all I can say is make and do what you love, whether that's crochet or poetry or ukelele or watercolours or quiches.  Be great at it and do it for the right reasons.  I am still thinking about this, though.

lundi 26 septembre 2011

School Rules

Just one of those arbitrary connections that I made from looking at my bookshelf and wondering what to pick up and reread for an hour this morning:

Some of my favourite adult books that are set in schools:
  • The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Notes on A Scandal by Zoe Heller

I just thought this was interesting, because when I think of school-set books, it's usual Mallory Towers, St Claire's or The Chalet School - you know the sort of thing.  That in itself is lovely, but I just happened to notice that it's not always the case.  Some very fine, often unsettling and very dark (not of these is a jolly schooldays romp, by any stretch oof the imagination) stories have been set in schools.  These could all probably be read by older teenagers, but are aimed primarily at adults.

I like making lists of things, however tenuous.  I am feeling disproportionately proud for having noticed this one!

vendredi 23 septembre 2011

Recent Watchings

This morning my friend Camilla asked me to recommend some good films that I've watched recently.  Here is the list that I sent her, based on my recent Lovefilm selections and the other films these reminded me of as I went along...

Good films I have watched lately and the others this has made me think of:

Dogville – Is absolutely effing all-time amazing.  If you like this, see also: Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist and any other Lars Von Trier (although I think some of his are better than others).

Lemming – Really good French film with Charlotte Gainsbourg (who I am obsessed with).

Tetro – Slightly silly but really beautiful and has Vincent Gallo in it.

Somewhere – Sofia Coppola’s new one; I loved it but only if you like her sorts of films (i.e., dreamy and literally nothing happens!).

Buffalo 66 – Speaking of Gallo, have you seen this?  Possibly my favourite film ever, definitely Top 3.

Catfish – This is a scary and amazing documentary: may put you off Facebook.

Dogtooth – Weird and intriguing Greek film.

Mesrine (1 & 2) – Sexy French crime film with Vincent Cassel (from Irreversible) in it.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Best Woody Allen for ages.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed – Quite nasty little English film, but I thought really well done and had some good twists.

Leaving – Good French film with Kristin Scott Thomas in it (I also recently watched her in another French film, called I’ve Loved You So Long, which was very good but very sad!).

Tell No-one – Another sexy French thriller, excellent.

Ma Femme est Une Actrice – Lovely French comedy (see also: Heartbreaker and Priceless if you haven’t – both fantastic.  You have probably seen Priceless as it has Audrey Tautou in it being all sexy).

Happiness – Properly wrong and great black comedy; if you like this, you will love all of Todd Solondz’s films, he is amazing.

Interview – Lightweight but worth a watch, two-hander between Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller which I actually really enjoyed.

Cracks – Silly but absolutely beautiful 1930s-set boarding school film with Eva Green (I like anything all dreamy and coming-of-age-y).

An Education – Quite good, based on brilliant book by Lynn Barber.

Fishtank – Best English film I’ve seen in ages, in that modern gritty English film way.

Mister Lonely – Very silly, only watch if you like surrealist films!  I loved it.  It’s about crap celebrity lookalikes living in a house together.

Persepolis – Properly brilliant: it’s a cartoon, which I thought sounded off-putting, but I felt enlightened and absolutely loved it.

London To Brighton – Really, really good, quite harrowing.

Away From Her – Amazing, but watch on a day you’re feeling emotionally up to it; I had to have a break halfway through because I was literally hysterical.  But so, so beautiful and worth it in the end.  Strangely uplifting.

Volver – Fantastic Spanish film, one of Almodovar’s best and Penelope Cruz is obscenely gorgeous in it.  See also: All About My Mother (I think his best), Talk To Her; any of his others but those are my favourites.  Lots of fun.

La Haine – Classic modern French film (written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz from Amelie and starring Vincent Cassel).

jeudi 22 septembre 2011

Creuset For You

One of the best things about the onset of autumn?  Getting out my Le Creuset casserole pot.  Seriously.

The rest of the year, it still gets its fair share of action (curries, summer soups, etc.) but like the duffel coat and the woolly tight, autumn and winter are when it really comes into its own.

On a Sunday, whilst reading the paper and listening to the radio, there is nothing better than whacking in some lovely ingredients and then leaving it to simmer and smell nice for the afternoon (that is if, like me, you like the aromas of cooking food more than anything else in the world – others may prefer to buy a scented candle).   Better yet, leave it on low and go out for a bracing walk.

Chicken, root vegetables, cheap cuts of beef and offal are all good.  However, the best in my humble opinion is the classic rabbit stew.  It makes me feel like Ted Hughes and I can almost convince myself that I went out on the moors at 5am to shoot the poor creature myself.  Actually, any slightly archaic meat is best – add venison and pheasant to that list, too.

Best of all, it’s almost impossible to get wrong – chuck in some meat and/or some veg, top up with stock (alternatively wine or ale if you’re feeling flush) and sprinkle in a few herbs, leave it in the oven and maybe do a dumpling at the last minute if you can be bothered.  Then you’ve got a complete beautiful meal that much easier and just as seasonal and comforting as a roast (although roast is joint king of Sunday lunches, obviously).

Better yet, follow it up with a crumble (but that’s a whole other story).  I heart winter cooking.

mardi 20 septembre 2011

Terrible Angels

Charlotte Gainsbourg (and, let's face it - most of her family) is one of my constant, low-level, long-term style obsessions.

So it's unsurprising that I am currently watching her new video on a loop.  Seriously, behold THE COOLNESS.

lundi 19 septembre 2011

In praise of… Linda McCartney

I am full of love for Linda.  I still find it hard to believe she is not with us.

I have always loved her photographs, and ‘Linda McCartney’s 60s’ has long been one of my favourite visual art books.  Her pictures of bands and artists from this time are so wonderfully natural and relaxed – I love how she managed to make people like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison look so normal.  As (I think!) Andy Warhol said, the best portrait photographs fall into one of two categories –ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or famous people doing normal things.  Linda nailed this concept better than anyone else.

She was also unfairly maligned for her musical endeavours – I think she had a sweet voice and I just love the fact that Wings was a lovely project precisely because Paul and Linda wanted to be together.  Let’s also remember that she made a wicked veggie sausage.

My favourites, though, are her family photos.  Obviously one of Linda’s greatest achievements was to have had such a beautiful life and family, and she combined this with her great creative talent.

We should all be so lucky.

The lady herself.

My favourite of Linda’s ‘at home’ photographs.

samedi 17 septembre 2011

Dandy In The Underworld

Last year, I remember reading about the play of Sebastian Horsley's life being staged, and then in the same week reading about his death.

He was someone I had a passing cultural awareness of, but when I saw his book, the 'unauthorised autobiography' Dandy in the Underworld in an art shop recently, I recognised his name and picked it up.

I was immediately intrigued and amused, as this is the first book I have ever encountered that has printed all of the bad reviews alongside the good ones in the front pages - as well as some glowing praise, the Telegraph called Horsley 'an attention seeking tosser with no talent' and Jeremy Vine of Radio 2 gave him the rather magnificent title of 'everything that is wrong with society today'.

Much of the rest of the book was as I expected, the writing often laugh-out-loud funny but openly derivative.  Sebastian was a true dandy of the classic kind, a Soho libertine of the old-school.  He was a mildly fascinating character, but never up there with my favourites - a tiny bit too cliched to make it into my list of perennial favourite rule-breakers, style-setters and brave-livers.  Maybe it was because his art was not exactly amazing, or all the Oscar Wilde quoting, or just that I don't think that his dandy look was all that stylish.

Also, I find drugs and the people who take them (the ones who bang on about it, anyway) really, really boring.  The ones that are always giving them up and then falling off the wagon even more so.  It's so repetitive.  What seems glamorous for about five minutes becomes a boring and unattractive trudge remarkably quickly.

Still, I did find parts of this bok riveting.  Sebastian's greatest fame in his life came from when he travelled to the Philippines in 2000 and had himself crucified.  For real.  Filmed by Sarah Lucas.  Many passed this off as a cheap publicity stunt but I truly don't care if it was - attention-seeking or not, to actually go through with it must have taken a very special sort of balls.  The passages in which he travels there, knowing this is going to happen to him of his own volition, in days and then hours then minutes, was incredible, page-turning and kind of awe-inspiring.

My favourite bits in the book are when Sebastian's humanity shines through the carefully-constructed and obvious-by-design veneer.  He talks of his addictions as being a constant attempt to 'send himself away' - a line I found pretty heartbreaking, actually.  His genuine hurt and disappointment when nobody wants to put on an exhibition of his crucufixion works - and the fact that he didn't mind admitting it - I found very sympathetic and affecting.  His love for Rachel 2 was really lovely.

Which makes it all the sadder that he died in 2010, something that now I've read the book I feel truly was a tragic waste.  His art may have been mediocre, although that was something he traded in, and for all the cliches and obvious influences, he could really write.  I'd love to have seen what he did next.  Apparently at the time of his death he had started work on a novel - I think to have read a book of fiction by him would have been interesting and probably better than this one.  I suspect his imagination matched his wit; it's hard to tell.

He really had a lot of friends who loved him, as becomes apparent if you read about his death on the internet, and I think that attests to what lies beneath this book and its occasional failings, and makes it all worthwhile in the end, to see those flashes of the genuine man behind it all.

In the end, he seemed to reach a real redemption, which of course makes it all the sadder that he was found alone in his flat having died of an accidental overdose.  As they said, if it had been deliberate, he would never have passed up the chance to leave a final note.  A waste all round, maybe one he would have appreciated.

vendredi 16 septembre 2011

Perfect Pop - Retro Babylon!

OK, I had a total crush on Jas Mann (and still remember his name!) but I still think this is a perfect pop song.

mercredi 14 septembre 2011


You can probably make a good guess at my fondness for the monogram solely by my incessant use of the moniker ‘ECW’ in lieu of anything else, wherever possible.

My mug at work has a lovely typographic red ‘E’, as much for the aesthetic as so that nobody else dares to use my cup.  A prized recent purchase was a 1930s nightgown, embroidered with the monogram ‘EC’ – how incredible is that (I mean, what are the odds?)?  I bought my laptop because, among other reasons, it is emblazoned with an ‘E’.  I love Roger Federer as much as Anna Wintour does, based mostly on his monogrammed cardigans.  What a stylish man.

So, with this obsession duly underway, my question today is – what else can I monogram?

I am fixated on the idea of having some personalised stationery made.  Maybe with my name on notepaper and just a monogram on the envelope?  I’ve been looking into this for some time and have found that a) most of them are boring, and b) it’s effing expensive.  Does anyone know of some super-cool reasonably-priced company that does beautiful personalised stationery?

I would love some monogrammed linen in my life – maybe an ECW pillowcase for me to dribble all over.  Actually, considering my serious nocturnal dribbling problem, this is probably not the best idea.  File this under ‘in parallel dream life’, then.

Most of all, I covet personalised Louis Vuitton luggage.  Ever since I saw a vintage example at the Maison some time ago, this has been the monogram dream.  Imagine, a beautiful classic case hand-painted with one’s initials or, better yet, coat of arms!

mardi 13 septembre 2011

My First Dress

Yesterday I went out shopping with my mum and bought three dresses.  From Topshop.  This is unheard of on many levels.

I hardly ever buy clothes; these three new dresses will see me dressed for the next two years, I estimate.  However, finding three (THREE!) new dresses that I really liked, that fit me and look nice, brought me a great deal of joy.  I am really looking forward to wearing them throughout the winter.  One was an ice-skater dress in plain blue, a sort of elongated flippy vest, which is a shape I enjoy; the next a smart sixties-style long-sleeved shift in navy and tan; finally, a very frivolous and slinky long-sleeved mini-dress in zebra print, I assure you a very SUBTLE zebra print, but still pretty daring for me, what with its ruching and exposed zip and general tightness.

This got me thinking, out shopping with my mum, of the first time I bought a dress.  I mean, the first time I bought a grown-up dress, from a proper grown-up shop, that I chose myself.  Before that, I can think of a couple of dresses that brought me true joy – a red velvet party dress when I was tiny, a navy blue pinafore dress from Tammy Girl when I was about 10, most of all a red and white patterned button-through early-90s hippie number that my mum bought me to wear to a school disco when I was eleven.  I believe I accessorised it with a floppy velvet hat and a costume necklace of my nan’s.  I may even, inexplicably, have added some white lace gloves.

Anyway, it was this first dress when I was 13 (I think) that was the important one.  I remember it so clearly and how adult it made me feel.  My mum and I went to Miss Selfridge on a Saturday morning, and I selected it myself – it was beige, in that sort of doily-patterned thermal vest material (know what I mean? Better than it sounds, decorated in lacy snowflake patterns); it has short sleeves, a round neck, and a flippy skirt that came down to my knees.  I wish I still had it.  I would totally wear it now.

I believe it cost £12, and I felt awesome walking through town carrying my very own Miss Selfridge carrier bag.  There were a few such purchases that year that made me feel similarly – mostly music-related, namely In Utero by Nirvana on cassette, and then Experimental Jetset Trash and No Star by Sonic Youth, which I bought because I had read of Kurt’s love for Sonic Youth and I wanted to hear them for myself.  I was obsessed with Loser by Beck, which I had on single (backed by B-sides Alcohol and Fume, both of which I got in trouble with my mum for listening to).  I read Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis and only half understood it.  I bought that copy of Select magazine that had PJ Harvey, Björk and Tori Amos on the cover, and put it on my wall.

All of these things I still have and still love.

That afternoon, I went to Carter’s Steam Fair with my family, wearing my new dress and feeling awesome.

I wish I still had that dress but I still have the spirit of it.

vendredi 9 septembre 2011

Perfect Pop

These perfect pop songs both came out during the same summer, and it reminds me of hanging out with my sister Katy and my cousin Caroline, watching 'Big Brother' and playing these songs constantly...

mercredi 7 septembre 2011

Let England Shake: Stories from the last decade

Obviously I am thrilled that PJ Harvey won the Mercury Music Prize last night.  Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me will know that my love for her is huge and abiding.

I think it's really fitting and great that she is the first artist in the history of the Mercury to win it twice - testament to the fact that she has the most interesting and consistently high-quality career of possibly any other musician in this era or country.  She is as relevant now as she has ever been; maybe even more relevant than ever before with this album - it's certainly her first album to be so outward-facing, rather than turned inward on herself, and I get the sense that this shift has reinvigorated her in all sorts of ways.  That's to say nothing of all of her albums for which she has been nominated and not won - almost any of her albums could comfortably stand up as a perfect example of her work of the time, head and curly hair above anything else out there in terms of creativity, artistic weight and sheer craft.

As Polly herself said last night: a lot has happened since the last time she won.  It's amazing how much.

The last time she won the Mercury, it was the 11th September 2001.  I was 20 and working in Hong Kong.  Polly Harvey was in Washington.  I have never felt further from my family and from real life; we all have our stories of sadness and strangeness on that day.

A lot of things have happened to all of us and to the world since then.  In many ways, the world seems like a scarier place, but work like Polly Harvey's is one of the things that gives me a flash of hope.

lundi 5 septembre 2011


As you know, I am stupidly excited about ticking into autumn.  While most people get all enthused about bare legs and sandals, I feel the same about coats and tights and long-sleeved velvet minidresses.

I also get pretty happy when my lunches – I make a packed lunch for myself every day – can transition from salads to soups.  Although I do my best to make it interesting, there is only so much that you can do with a salad – usually I jazz things up on a Friday with some avocado or artichoke, but that’s as exciting as it gets.

When it comes to soup, there’s a whole world of possibility.  My hand-held blender is one of my most useful possessions.

My favourite types fall into two categories – silkily blended chunky vegetables (like butternut squash or parsnip), or Thai-style thin broth with lovely soothing noodles and little vegetables like sugarsnap peas or mini corn floating in there.

I already can’t wait for a winter of nutritious and yummy soup!  I like it super spicy and hot, especially after a chilly run along the beach.

If you do, too – here is my very easy recipe for pumpkin soup, first published on my mum’s brilliant blog!


vendredi 2 septembre 2011

House essentials

I think it’s maybe a combination of turning 30 and moving into a new flat (which is part of The Official 5 Year Plan to move somewhere way better), but I am currently obsessed with having a lovely home.

At least I feel very focused on what I want to do and be in all ways at the moment – which boils down to a basic philosophy of ‘making the most of yourself’.  You know, we only have one life so I don’t want to waste mine being unfit or having willfully rubbish hair and unpainted toenails or living in a total shithole.  In the past few years, I have spent too much time concentrating on the future rather than the present – constantly starting excuse-making sentences with things like ‘when I sell my book…’ or ‘when we can afford to buy our own place…’.

Well, no more .  I don’t feel like waiting around any longer to make my life more beautiful, so I’m going to stop making excuses.

Some of the actions I have taken towards this are very simple (and boring, like taking out household insurance and getting broadband, even though I always said it was pointless in a rented flat when we might move at any time).

I read an article recently that used the acronym ‘CHAOS’ to mean ‘Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome’ – which is a state I lived in for a good few years.  It suggested never having your flat more than ten minutes away from being guest-ready – which doesn’t mean keeping it immaculate, but just clean and tidy enough that it never needs more than a quick once-over, and always having some good snacks and drinks in store.  It’s simple but great advice and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more entertaining in the new place.  This is helped by the fact that we have introduced an official weekly Cleaning Night into the household schedule (rather than previously, when we would wait until something became unbearable before one of us did it), after which we reward ourselves with Takeaway Curry Night!

We’ve also bought a couple of inessential but useful items, now that we’ve got the usable space – a proper desk for Jimmy to keep his 24-tracks on and work at (I’ve got the dining table, which is a real treat as it’s my favourite piece of furniture and had to be crammed in a corner where it could barely be used in the old place) and industrial filing cabinets for music and art storage; our new bookcase, which is actually big enough to house all of my books (once I took about four bags’ worth to the local chazza); a lovely vintage drinks trolley, which adds some much-needed extra storage space in our kitchen, providing a home for bottles and glassware and anything pretty I might want to display outside of a cupboard.

It turns out Gumtree is our friend!

Plus, I’m still pretty beside myself with excitement at actually having a working shower and space for a bedside table (yep, for four years in the old place, I had to have a handbag hung on the bedpost to contain my alarm clock and book!).

Next, I am planning some extra (hopefully pretty) storage for the bathroom – to include a magazine rack (that isn’t one of those atomic-style ones, which seem to be the only ones around); some good rugs to hide the ugly brown-and-white-mottled office-style carpets; an ottoman or some sort of vintage trunk for extra clothes and linen stashing, when we can afford one.  I’m sure then the list will grow.

So, the thinking is that while this might not be my dream home it might as well be a nice home.  Anyway, it’s all good practice for when we can actually move to the country and have a dog and a spare room.

jeudi 1 septembre 2011

Autumn Term

I know it’s not for a little while yet, but the start of September makes my brain and tastes turn to back-to-school time.  I love it.

While the end of the summer holidays may have been a time for sadness, the start of the autumn term was always an exciting time.  I actually loved shopping for new school shoes, maybe a new school bag and other such accessories.  For coats, we usually used to get them at the French hypermarket, the aptly-named Mammouth, and bring them home with us.

I still love the onset of autumn – I get very excited when it’s time to wear a proper coat, woolly tights and proper boots again.  That crispness in the air on the walk to work always brings me a little bit of joy.

As I sadly no longer have to do real back-to-school shopping, I find that a bit of pretending gets me back in that super-productive, new-term frame of mind.  This is something I take seriously – it’s usually around this time of year that I tell my lovely agent I’m really going to start hammering the writing for the ‘new school year’.

Things that would most get me in the autumn mood this year are:

No-one does schoolgirl chic like Marc Jacobs.

I want a neon satchel!

I’m such a sucker for pretty stationery, and it makes me very happy that the perennially-stylish Pearl Lowe has designed some.