lundi 28 mars 2011


I have always been obsessed with Having Other People’s Things.  Not so much like: “I want a She-Ra doll, give me yours”.  But more like: “I am obsessed with you and I want your stuff so I can sleep with it under my pillow”.  I never said I wasn’t creepy.

Right up until a few years ago, I was always trying to swap clothes with friends – the ones I thought were so cool that I wanted to be them.  Halfway through a night out, I’d have the hilarious idea that we should all swap dresses and wear them for the rest of the night.  Even if I got the short end of the stick, it was unimaginably exciting to me.  One particular friend I later fell out with and so possessions were never returned on either side, which means I still have her black polyester 70s disco dress that makes me look like a stumpy hooker, whereas she has a ravishing red silk number that I still miss.  To this day I still have sleepless nights over the time I swapped jackets with Vicky Lloyd when I was 15 – I got her way-too-big-for-me boring old black corduroy, while she was the lucky winner of this beautiful pearly-grey velvet blazer I bought in Kensington Market.  I have never in my life owned a better jacket, and it makes me sad that I have no idea what happened to it.  Weirder still, at the time I was thrilled with this exchange, just because Vicky Lloyd was prettier than me and I thought a little bit of her magic might rub off on me.

With boys I was worse.  I doggedly hung onto a plain black long-sleeved T-shirt, somehow finding its way onto my bedroom floor, refusing to wash it and telling its perplexed owner that I had no idea what he was talking about, I’d never seen such a garment in my life.  That wasn’t even the most tragic part – I think I was also listening to “Slide Away” by Oasis on repeat and sobbing at the time.  Chances are.  Still, he did worse things to me than mere T-shirt theft, so I don’t feel bad, just baffled at my former self.

I was having a big clear-out at the weekend and realised something.  I don’t do it any more.  I don’t want anyone else’s things.

I do still really want a She-Ra doll, though.

vendredi 25 mars 2011

Favourite Thing #19

Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea by PJ Harvey

It is well documented that I love PJ Harvey and everything she has ever done.  The proudest moment of my life so far was possibly the time I was wearing a PJ T-shirt and a random man in a pub called me an ‘arrogant bitch’ for ‘wearing a T-shirt of my own face’.  Nice.

However, this particular record holds a special place in my heart.  It came out in 2001, when I had just turned 20 and was spending the summer in Hong Kong, staying with my cousin and working at MTV.  Every day, I would take the bus and the train to my office in Tsim Sha Tsui, feeling like hot shit and listening to ‘You Said Something’ and ‘Good Fortune’ on repeat on my Walkman.  I don’t think I (deliberately, anyway) listened to any other music the whole time I was there.

I ate noodles and didn’t drink and wore knock-off Hysteric Glamour and Superlovers T-shirts from amazing market stalls.  I rode the tram all day for 20p and wrote reams and reams of rubbish in my little travel journal.  This record soundtracked every day of it.

I was out there for September 11th 2001, a few days before I was due to go home, with the same sense of surreal horror that everyone in the world had, as I watched the breaking news on the cinema-sized screens at the MTV Asia offices.  For the whole flight back, I cried and listened to ‘This Mess We’re In’.

Two years later, I met a man who also held this record dear; we sat on a fire escape and sang PJ/Thom Yorke harmonies.  But that’s another story.  I expect I’ll tell it to you one day.

jeudi 24 mars 2011

Census Day

I was disproportionately excited about filling in my census form.

I had only ever filled in one before, and I still have vivid memories of that experience back in 2001, aged nineteen.  I distinctly remember sitting on my single bed in a rented flat in Bournemouth (a one-bedroom above a newsagent’s that we made into two by building our own homemade partitions), filling in the form on behalf of myself and my flatmate at the time.  It seemed such an exciting, grown-up thing to be doing!

Most importantly, it made me think about the fact that the next one would be in ten years’ time.  Who knew what I would be doing then?  I’d probably be married to my on-off boyfriend (I dreamily imagined writing in our occupations as ‘writer’ and ‘musician’) and we’d probably own our own house in London and have at least one child – after all, I’d be twenty-fricking-nine by then!

All this came flooding back to me with slightly alarming clarity, as I armed myself with a cup of coffee and a nice ballpoint pen and sat down to write about the 2011-version me.

Some of it was a tiny bit disappointing – I still had to tick the ‘rented accommodation’ box and the ‘no car’ box.  However, I now have gas central heating, a definite step up from that chilly old flat in Bournemouth – score!  Not to mention that I now live in a far more glamorous seaside city these days.

My ‘Person 2’ (yep, still just the two) was now my boyfriend of seven years (not the 2001 one, thank the lord), rather than a platonic-flatmate, and at least we could write that we had real jobs, rather than skipping that section and putting ‘student’.  And even if ‘writer’ and ‘musician’ were only our unofficial part-time job titles, at least they still figured (and, yeah, I do have a type).

Most importantly, who knows what the 2021 form will hold?  By then I might really be able to put ‘writer’ in the full-time occupation box; we might live in the country; I might be married rather than living in sin (not sure about that one, though); I might even have a car.  Of course, I will doubtless be a much better, more successful, grown up person altogether.  After all, I’ll be thirty-fricking-nine by then!

mardi 22 mars 2011

Cool Ladies

For some reason, the simple wisdom of this article made me feel awesome when I read it yesterday.  It's not rocket science, true, but there's not enough of this sort of loveliness around.

Spread the love:

I want to go to there!

lundi 21 mars 2011

Favourite Things #368 and #199

Grey Gardens and Paris Is Burning

Two very different beasts, but both amazing documentary films, so for these purposes they are As One.  Both are certified classics and have been a huge influence on me.

Grey Gardens, as you probably know as it is so beloved of so very many, is about Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Beale (Big Edie and Little Edie) – aunt and cousin, respectively, to Jacqueline Onassis, and the inhabitants of Grey Gardens, their once-grand family home in the Hamptons.

Somewhat down on their luck, they inhabit various rooms of their derelict old house one at a time, surrounded by animals and expensive filth, eating cat food and pretending it’s fois gras; at one point wondering out loud whether they still have that Rembrandt knocking about or whether the raccoons in the attic ate it.  Little Edie does her ‘terrific dances’, with Big Edie grumbling and singing ‘Tea For Two’ whilst drinking cocktails in bed and cooking corn-on-the-cob on a camping stove.

If this sounds like an eccentric spectacle, that’s because it is – but that’s not all it is, and the people who think that (of whom there are many) are missing the point entirely.  The Edies are warm and witty and wise, fashion icons with their vintage furs and bright headscarves, and most importantly they are a wonderful lesson in living life on your own terms.  They are self aware and they don’t care what you think – they know that they are bloody brilliant.  They provide a lovely archetype of mother/daughter relationships, in all their messy (passive-aggressive/co-dependent/mutually protective/bickering) loveliness.  Every time I watch it, it makes me feel like living a little bit braver.

Paris Is Burning is not set in Paris, but in New York.  The New York of the early 80s, which no longer exists, which is both a kind-of good and a kind-of bad thing.  It is about the drag balls and family ‘houses’ in Harlem, the birth of voguing and the reality behind it.

A drag ball was the centre of an elaborately structured gay and transgender community, a sort of beauty contest with strict rules and categories where participants could ‘walk’ for their ‘houses’ (like a really glamorous version of street gangs – with names like Xtravaganza, Ninja and St Laurent) and compete for the ultimate accolade of ‘legendary’ status.   What I love is how inclusive they were – with categories such as ‘young executive’ or ‘butch queen’, so that those who couldn’t pass in a ball gown or a miniskirt could all join in.

What is truly heartbreaking is the juxtaposition of this and the glamorous participants’ everyday lives – many of them street kids and sex workers as well as part-time performance artistes.  The balls were part of an amazing fantasy world, constructed not only as a creative outlet and social meeting point, but as a temporary escape from a cruel reality.

You will cry your eyes out and you will think about it for days (years, if you’re me).  You will fall in love with Venus Xtravaganza and wish that you could save her from herself.  Octavia St Laurent will be the most beautiful woman you have ever seen in your life.  You will want to go to New York, wear enormous earrings and sit on a stoop with a ghetto-blaster.

OK, that last one might just be me.  And.  Every time I watch it, it makes me feel like living a little bit braver.

vendredi 18 mars 2011

Music makes the people

When people say they like ‘all sorts of music’, it always makes me think that this probably means some tasty combination of Keane, Coldplay and Craig David.  Maybe even the Lighthouse Family.

However, this statement is probably true of me, too.  An honest shortlist of my all-time favourites would include: PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Nirvana, Le Tigre, Nick Cave, Hole, Evan Dando, Serge Gainsbourg, Debussy, No Doubt, Jason Donovan, Cat Power, Devendra Banhart, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Placebo, Goldfrapp, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Lady Ga Ga, Bat For Lashes, Tori Amos, Joanna Newsom, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blondie, Lou Reed, Madonna, Viper Suzas, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Frida Hyvonen, Jefferson Airplane, Nico, New York Dolls, The Kills, Lily Allen, Bjork, Vanessa Paradis, Culture Club, Echo and The Bunnymen, REM, Fever Ray, Tom Waits, Shakespears Sister, Kenickie…

The list, like everyone’s, could go on forever.

Here’s some more recent cool stuff I’ve been listening to:

Tied To The Mast
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention the fact that this is the most recent of my boyfriend’s many bands.  I am also not lying when I say that they are great.  In the same way that Nirvana sounded like The Knack played by Black Sabbath (Kurt’s words, not mine), TTTM sound like The Beatles played by Mudhoney.  They also make really cool videos, with the help of our cinematic friend Krista.  The next one is going to star my actress sister!
Check this out at

Perspex Wrecks
This is my friend Jack’s band.  They are properly awesome and Jack is a gen-u-Ine pop star in the making.  He also makes music as HZAKYA.  See them live if you can.  I am wearing one of their T-shirts as I type this!

I am also newly obsessed with the Dead Weather (I’m a bit late to this party I know – it’s that they took a while to grow on me, despite being a diehard Alison Mosshart devotee) and the beautiful Josh T. Pearson’s new record, as well as the new one from Grinderman.  I am old-ly obsessed with Nico’s ‘The Marble Index’ and the always spring-like Cat Power.  I want to be her running through the field on the ‘You Are Free’ inside cover.

The last gig I went to was to see PJ Harvey at the Troxy.  It goes without saying that she was incredible and that her latest album is extraordinary.  The Troxy (my first visit) is also pretty cool, and I enjoyed an adventure at the Hoxton Hotel that included late-night macaroni cheese.

jeudi 17 mars 2011

Recent Readings

Don't you love it when you have a really good little run of great new books to read?  Well, lucky me, 'cause that's what seems to have happened in the past couple of weeks.

In the interests of sharing the joy, here they are, in the order I read them:

Neve is a girl who used to be fat, and now isn't, but still thinks she is.  This is the theme that affects many of her relationships and romantic problems.  I didn't love everything about this book, and found elements of it really annoying - but I want this to be a largely positive little song to the things I love, rather than contributing to the mass of unnecessary snarkiness out there in the world (and note I said 'unnecessary', so I don't mean things like the genius Fug Girls, just the stupid ones, OK?).  But I would still largely recommend it, so here are the things I loved about it: a romantic heroine who isn't whingeing about being an unattractive heifer when she's a size-eight part-time model; the character of Neve's sister Celia, who was lovely and I would be friends with; the focus on careers and work as much as romance, which I am always a fan of in this sort of fluffy book.  Also, I love Sarra Manning's teen books, and would more whole-heartedly recommend 'Nobody's Girl', which is lovely.

There has been much written about this, good and bad.  I really kind of loved it.  It is beautifully written, to a swooning degree, and I could really relate to a lot of it.  A lot of the criticism of this book seems to have been based on the fact that she is so 'self-absorbed' - to which I say yeah, maybe, but she never said she wasn't (what did you expect, when you pick up a book that's a first-person memoir?) and she is also brave and talented.  You might expect a book about a woman's haul through bulimia and self-harm to be po-faced and depressing, but Emma Forrest is really funny (although never inappropriately so when it comes to the Serious Issues, I thought) and, most importantly, ultimately triumphant.  Living well is the best revenge.
I was intrigued enough to invest in Emma Forrest's previous novels (three of 'em).  Of these, I really, really liked 'Namedropper' and I adored 'Cherries In The Snow' so much I want to get it pregnant.

MY COUSIN RACHEL by Daphne du Maurier
OK, this is by no means 'new'.  You all know Rebecca.  I also loved 'Jamaica Inn'.  You may well also know this one, but it was my first time reading it.  Why did I leave it so long?  This book is properly, properly amazing - a plot to die for and one of the few books I have ever read where I literally had no idea what was going to happen until the very last word.

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
It's a simple concept but sometimes the good ones are: love is a disease andthey've found a cure.  I also loved Lauren Oliver's first book 'Before I Fall' - this one is different but really quite great.  Some interesting ideas in there, and by the end I was rooting for the main character so much I could hardly breathe.  I really think Lauren Oliver is a bit of a star, and I am pleased that this is the first of a trilogy.

So, now I feel a bit bereft.  There's nothing else new that I am dying to read, and nothing unread left on my shelf.  Time to get inspired.

mercredi 16 mars 2011


When I was little, I used to publish fanzines.  When I say 'publish', I mean type, cut and paste (with Pritt Stick), photocopy and post to my friends, often along with an accompanying mixtape.  They were rubbish; it was fun.

I found a stash of them the other day - my final effort as a shiny 21-year-old, almost too old for such things but not quite, just like with my dyed red hair and too much eyeliner.  "!The Shocking Blues & Mean Reds!".  If you knew me in the early-2000s you may have been familiar with it.  But probably not.  They included a random collection of my thoughts and opinions on such fascinating subjects as Jilly Cooper heroines, being mistaken for Cat Power, referring to one's pre-Winehouse beehive as one's 'killer Priscilla', "Which Valley of the Dolls character are you?" quizzes (Neely O'Hara, of course), and Why Boys Hate Vincent Gallo.

Then I got serious, started wearing more black, doing 'proper' writing.

Anyway.  Reading them back now, they were sweet (and very silly and a tiny bit arrogant) and they made me laugh.  I thought "wouldn't it be nice if I had a new repository for all the random thoughts in my stupid head?".

Maybe it will be fun for both of us.