mardi 28 juin 2011

Moving Target

This week, I will be moving out of the rented flat that my boyfriend and I have lived in for the past four years.  We are moving about seven doors down from our current place (albeit technically into a different road), so maybe not too much upheaval, but it still feels pretty momentous.

So, we will be transporting our things from our current ground-floor Victorian one-bedroom, to a top-floor Victorian one-bedroom in the next road.  The new place is a tiny bit smaller, but I think better laid-out so in fact we may be able to use the space we do have more sensibly (and it’s a good time for paring down my ever-growing Collection of Crap); it’s on the sunny side of the road so we’ll get a lot more light streaming in; amazingly, for the first time in our six years of living in Brighton (and our third Brighton flat), we will be able to see the sea!

The ‘old’ flat has been lovely and a place where we’ve got loads of good things done.  We have wonderful neighbours, who I hope we’ll stay in touch with and still see around the place.  We rented it from friends, which has felt cosy and comfortingly lo-fi.  We were supposed to stay for six months and quite happily hung around for four years.

It feels like the flat where we’ve learned to grow up and settle down a bit.  Our previous place, right smack in the middle of the Lanes, was a bit Party Central – we had two artist friends staying with us in our (one-bedroom!) place for much of the time that we lived there, including Steve (The Wizard), who stayed for nearly a year.  We made way too much use of the local off-license’s ‘two bottles of wine for a fiver’ deal, bought way too many of our meals from the pizza place over the road, and smoked way too many cigarettes around that kitchen table.  It was fun, and perfect for the time, but it was also the perfect time for it to end when it did.

Since we’ve moved out to Seven Dials – all of ten minutes’ walk away, but to a road with trees, where all of the buildings are residential rather than above shops – life has taken a welcome turn for the quieter.  It’s been a good place to work and to read.  We know our friends in the local pub and in our amazing local shop.  I’m pleased we’re staying in the area for the time being.

The plan is to take all of those good positives and move them into the new flat with us.  Moving house is also, I find, always a good time to think about the things you want to get done while you live in the new place.  In addition, I am looking forward to being high up again – I love being on the top floor and, weirdly, find I seem to write better whilst looking down on the world!

So, goodbye, Number 22.  Hi, Number 73!

jeudi 23 juin 2011

Comfort Reads

I am a fan of comfort – in clothes, shoes, food, and even books.  If ever I am suffering with a cold, a hangover or existential angst, I have a favourite little collection of books that are guaranteed to make me feel better.  The literary equivalent to being under a blanket with a small dog and a plate of toast and Marmite – and if you can swing it so that you actually get those things in real life, then all the better.

In the interests of your health and wellbeing, I thought I’d share…

Peerless Flats by Esther Freud
Like most of hers, it’s a slim, elegant read, and it’s not exactly heavy on the action.  Lisa is such a lovely heroine, though, she always cheers me right up – as does Max, the naughty fox.  If you’re feeling bored and out of sorts, what better to read about than another girl being bored and out of sorts, too?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My childhood favourite, and probably that of most girls with a bookish bent (as we all want to be Jo, of course).  There’s nearly always an element of nostalgia to comfort, isn’t there?  I could read this over and over again, forever.

Dolce Vita by Iseult Teran
This is another bored/out of sorts classic – but while Lisa of Peerless Flats feels like she could be your best school friend, Una of Dolce Vita is way cooler and more glamorous than anyone you’ve ever met in your life.  This is an aspirational sort of comfort that just might cheer you up into putting on some lipstick and hitting the town after all.  Bonus points for its in-plot inclusion of ‘Terms of Endearment’ – a classic comfort/cathartic film if ever there was one.  Finally, if you like this, see also: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
I love Cassandra and I love Topaz even more.  If you’re anything like me, you will never want this book to end – or, better yet, you’ll actually want to live in said castle with the wonderful Mortmains.

Rivals by Jilly Cooper
Any Jilly would do, but this is surely the best one.  A stone-cold classic to get totally lost in.  Taggie and Caitlin are the two best sisters in modern literature!  For something skinnier and demolishable in an hour or two, any of the ‘name’ books are a delight.  My personal favourite is Prudence, closely followed by Harriet.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Just on the right side of twee, for if you’re in the mood for something frothy-light, like the world’s most beautiful salad for lunch on a hot day.  My copy even has charming little line drawings by way of illustration.  However, despite its feathery consistency, I must admit that I was rooting for the title character to win the day so much by the end that it assumed all the qualities of high drama.  Luckily, future readings were less stressful and I assure you not to worry.

No-one Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Even the title is comforting!  Short stories for when perfectly-formed bite-sized morsels are all you can handle.  Primarily known as a filmmaker, this has Miranda July’s distinctive and charming fingerprints all over it.  Each and every one of the stories is witty and wise, but I think ‘Something That Needs Nothing’ is my most-read favourite.  I also, obviously, love ‘I Kiss A Door’, because it’s about a girl called Eleanor who’s in a band and owns the perfect coat.  I once had a dream where I married Keith Richards and owned the perfect coat.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
A weird inclusion, perhaps, but if ever you need something to take your mind off it all – this is just the ticket you’ve been looking for.  It’s pulpy in all the best ways and is the very definition of a page-turner.  The first time I read it, I stayed up for twenty-four hours straight just to find out what happened in the end.  This may sound extra-weird but, here goes: if you liked this, read Jackie Collins’s early Lucky books; everyone presumes that she writes steamy romance novels, but actually she cites The Godfather as her greatest inspiration and (at least early on) it shows.  Just with (a lot) more sex.

The Complete Journals of Sylvia Plath
Because sometimes wallowing is the only way forward, and there’s something surprisingly uplifting about this.

mercredi 22 juin 2011


Isn't it brilliant when people who do extraordinary are things are really quite, well, ordinary?  You know, people who make amazing things, where part of their beauty lies in the fact that you feel you, and/or your mates, could almost have made it yourself.  So cool that it seems effortless, basically.

Good examples of this are: everything that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have ever had anything to do with; the lovely music of Evan Dando; Tracy Emin.

I would add to this little list, one Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes).  As you probably know, she makes beautiful, accessible pop music that isn't even slightly dumbed down - a rarity in these lowest-common-denominator pop music times.  Plus - you know all those girls wearing gold headbands halfway down their foreheads?  Kind of her fault.

We have quite a lot in common, really - similar ages and influences, both largely from the London suburbs with disparate multi-national extended families, now both settled by the seaside in Brighton.  So, I see her around town quite a bit, which is why I was discussing this very concept with friends last night - for a girl who makes incredible, quite ethereal music, she is really normal.  Like, a very pretty and talented version of normal.

She hangs out in a cafe round the corner from my flat quite a lot, she loves nosing around in Snooper's Paradise, her boyfriend works in the Dorset (our local), and whenever we saw her at ATP (I make it sound like it was an accident, but admittedly a rather smitten Jimmy did start a concerted campaign of 'Batwatch') she looked like she was having a laugh and a lovely time.

This is something to aspire to; I think really quite a lovely life.  A good balance.  Be the best version of normal that it's possible to be.

I dream of home.

lundi 20 juin 2011


I love my Mooncup.  I don’t care who knows it.  It has changed my life.  I have tried to get pretty much all of the women in my life onto the joys of the Mooncup – only succeeded with two, and only one took to it.  I once threatened to buy Mooncups for my mum and sister for Christmas – they were both beyond appalled.  I think my mum told me I had lived in Brighton too long, before gleefully telling me that she LOVED using disposable, bleached and otherwise unhealthy products because she was not a hippie!

Anyway, for me, my Mooncup has changed my life.  The novelty has worn off slightly now, but in my early days of Mooncupping, I actually found myself looking forward to my next period!  The difference has been subtle but powerful – being able to see actual liquid blood rather than gory soaked cotton wool has made me feel more connected to and comfortable with the whole process.  It just makes more sense.

On a practical level, I have never had any efficiency/spilling/leakage issues – which was initially my main concern.  The thing I love most is that you can put it in preemptively and it’s perfectly safe – a real bonus if you’re as paranoid as I am.  Plus, it’s either in or it’s out – no need to carry around a suitcase of Tampax.

The environmental benefits are just a nice by-product for me – obviously a plus, but I probably wouldn’t persist in putting myself out if it wasn’t just the best option for me anyway.  The real thing I enjoy is that it’s constantly saving me money and has taken me out of the equation of being a captive audience.  I bought my Mooncup about five years ago, for about £12 from Infinity Foods (my local eco-supermarket in Brighton – don’t laugh!).  So, since then, I have not spent any money at all on an industry that (I believe) is not particularly kind or healthy to women.  That makes me happy every time I use my Mooncup, to this very day.

A girl I used to know years ago called Sacha – who really was a delightful and beautiful little hippie – used to tell me that she and her mum tried to visualise their periods as a monthly cleansing of all the bad things of the past month, physical and emotional.  I’m not quite there with that one yet, lovely as it sounds – but if you feel remotely interested (obviously, it’s your business), then I would heartily recommend the trusty Mooncup.

jeudi 16 juin 2011

Damage Control.

Damage Control: Women on the therapists, beauticians, and trainers who navigate their bodies (edited by Emma Forrest).

You may remember that this was one of my recent Amazon purchases – as I said at the time, I love Emma Forrest’s writing and was fascinated to hear her views on such an interesting subject.  She has also roped in some great women to talk about this issue in essay form – including my perennial favourites Julie Burchill and Barbara Ellen, the beautiful actress Rose McGowan, and others.

It really is an intriguing subject, and one that affects us all in so many ways, the more you think about it.  On the rare occasions that I get a Brazilian wax, I am exposing bits of myself that few have seen, without a second thought, usually whilst casually discussing the X-Factor and the current contents of Heat magazine, and marveling that the girl who does my waxing is so sensible when she’s more than a decade younger than me.  My yoga teacher sometimes seems to know more about my moods than I do.

For me, it’s hairdressers that are the big one.  We put so much power in the hands of someone who, in some cases, we don’t even know.  For me, hair is probably the most important of any grooming ritual, as it can say so much about us – my hair has been crew-cut, hippie-long, jet black, bleached-blonde, pillar box red, bright purple.  All of these transformations have been considered with the utmost seriousness – I think hair is so important to me because I care more about semiotics than about beauty.  That’s to say, I have had some fugly hair-dos that have made me feel awesome.

The day I had all my hair cut off and dyed bright red, in Camden Market, aged sixteen – well, that felt like the day I discovered my coolness.  My friend Ali had her bellybutton pierced at the same time, and I will remember it forever as an important day.  I can still picture the girl who cut it, and myself in that chair.  This is the power that hairdressers have!

For years, a friend used to cut mine.  When he moved to Miami, I didn’t visit another hairdresser regularly for about three years.  I would just cut it myself, rather than endure the horror of someone who doesn’t give a shit how you feel or what you want, who you then have to pay vast amounts of money to at the end!

Then I met Jonathan.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most important relationships of my life.  Luckily, my friend Charlotte has amazing hair and so I trusted her enough to believe her when she promised me that he was a hair god.  I love him and ideally do not want anyone else to cut my hair as long as I live.  I have recommended him to all the cool girls I know (and my boyfriend), and everyone has come away feeling excellent (which is of course the most important thing).

The single most crucial factor for me is: a hairdresser who gets my cultural references.  When I said I wanted a Karen O bowl, I didn’t need to say another word.  When I turned up with a whole moodboard (that’s another thing, hairdressers have to appreciate my moodboards – I know, I’m a nightmare!) of Keith Richards, he didn’t think that was weird.  He calls me ‘PJ’ because we both love her and I look a bit like her – the fact that he even noticed this filled me with joy.

The second most important thing is atmosphere.  I hate being in a salon that feels like a party I’m not invited to – i.e., 99% of all salons.  That’s even worse than going to Toni & Guy and them just completely ignoring you whilst giving you the Toni & Guy house haircut.  In Jonathan’s salon, there is a dog and a biscuit tin and a lovely kitchen table to sit at while your hair dye is on.  Everyone looks cool, but no-one’s a dick.  If it gets late and it’s quiet, he might pour a glass of wine and put some Nick Cave on.  It’s that sort of place.  I want to live there.

So, this has turned into nothing but a love letter to my hairdresser, but that’s appropriate, really – see, these are important people in our lives.  If you agree, “Damage Control” is a brilliant book.

There are stories both positive and negative, of course.  I could completely relate to Marian Keyes’s tale of a hairdressing experience from hell, and to Barbara Ellen’s description of being made to feel rubbish by the people in her gym.  I loved Rose McGowan’s essay, ‘It Takes A Village’ – in part, because it was so refreshing to hear such a perfect-looking actress admit that it takes her a lot of work.

In fact, I don’t think there was a weak link in the lot.  I just wish that there were perhaps multiple volumes of this, because I could pretty much listen to these sorts of stories forever.

mardi 14 juin 2011

Birthday Lunch.

You can read about a very happy day here, if you so desire:

In fact, you should investigate further into my glamorous Mum's food blog, because it's great.  The writing is often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and there's the odd recipe on there that even I can manage to knock up (and even an occasional guest post from me).

lundi 13 juin 2011

I heart Paris.

As happens sometimes, I am having a hankering for Paris.  It’s one of those top favourite places that haunts me from time to time, until the urge to go becomes irresistible and I find myself on the Eurostar.  It is still endlessly exciting to me, no matter how many times I do it, that I can just get on a train in London and then be in Paris for lunch, or even breakfast.  Especially now that this journey starts at St Pancras, so the glamour begins with the very first step as well as it feeling like the most civilised way to travel.

My first trip to Paris was at the age of (I think) 8.  I was a precocious child (I know; you’re shocked), who was slightly obsessed with the idea of Paris and as such was avidly learning the language, with a ridiculous accent that I thought was way sophisticated.  So as a special treat of the highest order, my parents took me by myself, for the day, by aeroplane in the years before Eurostar, for St Valentine’s Day.  I insisted upon wearing a beret, refusing to believe my mum’s explanation that French people didn’t wear berets every day – I clearly thought that not to wear one would show me up as the gauche little rosbif that I was.  I drank chocolat chaud, had my portrait drawn in Montmartre, and had an early dinner in Chartier before jetting back home with a new love in my life.

Since then, I have been a regular visitor, and I always make sure that each trip includes at least one meal at Chartier – possibly my favourite restaurant in the world.

Other memorable Parisian jaunts include my visits to see Rachael when she was living and studying there for a year.  She lived in a postage-stamp-sized studio apartment that she shared with another girl, at the very top of the archetypal tall rickety Paris house, and if you really craned your neck you could see the Eiffel Tower from her kitchenette window.  I have fond memories of us deciding to stay up all night, as I had to be at the airport at something like 5AM for my flight back to London, drinking coffee outside  in the Latin Quarter and talking nonstop so as not to fall asleep.

Another flying daytrip was for my mum’s birthday six or seven years ago – it fell on a weekday and for some reason all of the menfolk were busy.  So, she decided to take my sister, my nan and me for an impromptu ladies’ day out.  Another of those pinch-yourself surreal days where you really are suddenly at an Amelie-style café in time for your morning coffee.  I remember we flew back late in the evening and I went straight on to a friend’s house party for another birthday, turning up straight from the airport with a cheese platter I’d bought only a couple of hours before.

In homage to, well I suppose kinda myself, I took Jimmy to Paris as a surprise for our first Valentine’s day.  The Chartier tradition continued.

My last visit was last March, en route to a ski trip – taking the train from London to Geneva and then a bus on to Chamonix – with a night’s stopover in Paris, perfectly timed to coincide with Jimmy’s birthday.  So, of course, just time for a quick visit to the Louvre and dinner at Chartier, before we stayed overnight in a hotel and caught the early train up to the Alps the following morning.  We stayed in an amazing hotel, with opulently themed rooms (I seem to remember that we stayed in ‘Mistinguett’ – look her up – although we could have had Coco Chanel or Josephine Baker), where they played Lady Gaga in the hallways, right slap bang in the middle of the Pigalle district.  That seedy old red light area is actually one of my favourite parts of Paris.  I woke up in the middle of the night, possibly due to the thumping music from the nightclub next door, and upon staggering sleepily into the old-fashioned bathroom, I found the room flooded with Moulin Rouge neon light filtered through tatty old lace curtains.  I decided to have a bath just to enjoy the light while I could.  It was perfect.

Now the time has come that I am definitely due a return.  Before the summer is out, I think.

jeudi 9 juin 2011

Jack Lucan

You must check out my wonderful friend Jack Lucan's new website.  Jack is lovely, super talented, and he is MADE OF MUSIC.

I personally recommend the 'Dancing in the Shadows' EP, as it includes my current favourite song 'Fuck Music'.  The message is not what you might think.

The website was made by my boyfriend Jimmy, so it's a real family affair, just like that time the three of us went to ATP and - in between seeing bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Breeders and Mudhoney - we watched the snooker and drank loads of tea.

mercredi 8 juin 2011

Amazon excite.

One of the nicest presents in the world has got to be an Amazon voucher.  It's such a luxury having 'free' money to spend on fun stuff that you might not splash out on for yourself otherwise.

So, along with a few gems from my own Amazon wishlist that were bought for me (Martina Rink's Isabella Blow book, the Ottolenghi cookbook - thanks, Joyce!), an electronic Amazon voucher from lovely Uncle Bear and Joss made my day.

Here is what I bought and why I'm so excited!

Dolce Vita - Iseult Teran; Paperback
A classsic that I borrowed from Ruth, kept for months, and am only just getting round to buying myself!  The only one here that I have already read and highly recommend.

Irm - Charlotte Gainsbourg; Audio CD
A Gainsbourg plus Beck?  How can you go wrong?!

The Best of Everything - Rona Jaffe; Paperback
One that I've been meaning to read for a while, and that suddenly everyone seems to be going on about - as usual, I don't like to be left out of the party.

I adore Emma Forrest and cannot wait for her views on a topic that I find endlessly fascinating (and those of the other interesting women whose contributions she has edited for this book).

Mexican Food Made Simple - Thomasina Miers; Hardcover
I recently attended a debate, as part of Brighton Festival, on 'The Pleasures and Politics of Food'.  It was chaired by the divine Jay Rayner, was extremely enlightening and thought-provoking, and I was left entirely impressed by Tommi Miers, who was on the panel.  I love Mexican food, and can't wait to get cooking it a bit more properly and healthily!

Somewhere [DVD] - Stephen Dorff; DVD
To go with my new Sofia handbag, obvs.

mardi 7 juin 2011

Slim Suede Coal.

OK, so it turns out I can't quite stop myself from boring you with just a little bit of that other stuff (just like I said I wouldn't).

The Sofia Coppola collection for Louis Vuitton is, of course, amazing - how could I resist this perfect synergy of my favourite bastions of style?  It encapsulates my '30s look' perfectly - LV, Marc, plus the fact that Sofia Coppola has always been one of my idols of cool/chic/effortless/fashion.  She and Charlotte Gainsbourg are two of my most-Googled inspirations when I really want to go for that 'I am so awesome I don't even care' look.

So, drumroll, please...  I am now the proud owner (THANK YOU, Mum!!) of the Sofia Coppola for Louis Vuitton 'Slim Suede Coal' evening bag, which I am planning to double up as an everyday purse and occasional evening clutch (see, so awesome I am mixing up all the rules?!).

I love her with my heart.

P.S. - I promise this isn't going to turn into one of those boring blogs that it just cut-and-pasted electronic fashion moodboards, heavy on the Jane Birkin and the Grey Gardens.  Thanks for bearing with me.

Now We Are...

So, here I am on the other side of 30.  Hi.

I've had an amazing 'birthday week' (excessive, me?), which has left me with all manner of lovely things.  I shan't bore you TOO much with tales of my new Louis Vuitton purse, Westwood earrings, vintage jewellery, signed C-Lo memorabilia, world's coolest bagel cutter, &c., &c.  However, I shall bore you with much banging on about the fact that this has inspired me into making some birthday resolutions for the next decade.
  • Spend as much time as possible with my friends and family.
  • No more social smoking.
  • Don't waste time, have an awesome time, make the most of yourself and do the stuff you are here to do.

jeudi 2 juin 2011


These photographs, of my friends Tom's thirtieth birthday last year, make me very happy.