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.