jeudi 16 octobre 2014


I was 17 in 1998.  I always remember it as one of my best years.  It doesn't seem like very long ago to me.

When the film 'Sliding Doors' came out, I think I went to see it at the cinema with my best friend.  We were a bit obsessed with the cool short haircut that Gwyneth gets and I attempted to emulate it myself.  GOOP wasn't all that well known - I won a tenner in a bet with my mum that she wasn't really English (we weren't sure).  She even manages to say 'bollocks' really convincingly.

I was quite excited when, in the present day, I spotted it on Netflix (which, of course, didn't exist in 1998).  It was only when watching it that I realised how long ago 1998 really was.  (Not that far off 20 years, in fact.)

It looks so very old-fashioned - even retro - now.  There was smoking indoors.  And tape decks.  And drinking Grolsch was trendy.  As was wearing a poloneck (actually I still love a poloneck, but I used to wear them a lot more in 1998).  Films like 'Sliding Doors' saw fit to include Dodgy in their soundtrack...

But it's still a really good film.

vendredi 10 octobre 2014

You Said Something

'On a rooftop in Brooklyn, at one in the morning...
Watching the lights flash, in Manhattan...'

Not just a really lovely PJ Harvey song, but pretty much exactly what I was doing last week.  I was in New York - a brilliant trip, which I will probably bang on about in more detail at some point - specifically, on the roof terrace at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg.  Drinking a whisky cocktail and looking out across the water to the Empire State Building.

But that wasn't even the best bit.

The best bit was that I was with a girlfriend who I hadn't seen for years.  A proper, close girlfriend - one I truly love, who I have been on holiday with twice and used to hang out with all the time.  This was possibly the first time in my 33 years that I had inadvertently lost touch with such a good friend.

I moved to Brighton; she moved to New York.  We tried to think of the last time we saw each other, and neither of us could for the life of us remember.  At least five years, maybe even closer to 10.  Who knew?  Now she even had a husband I had never met.

We'd exchanged the occasional email over the years, but drifted out of close contact.  Then I let her know that I was going to be in New York and we made vague plans to meet.

And here we were, drinking on a rooftop in Brooklyn, chatting like the old friends we were, like nothing had changed.  And it hadn't, not really.  We had greeted each other with genuine screams and hugs in the middle of the road.  We laughed at the fact that we both still looked so much the same that we could never have had trouble recognising each other.  We talked about new ideas just as much as we reminisced over old memories.  Conversation was easy and fun.  We emailed the next day; I can't wait to see her again in a couple of months.

Rather than being sad that we ended up skipping a few years together, it makes me feel pleasantly reassured about the world, friendship, the passage of time...  She dashed onto a bus with her lovely husband and I waved her off before I disappeared into the subway, safe in the knowledge that nothing can ever change who we really are, PJ Harvey on my headphones.

mardi 7 octobre 2014

Your devils and your deeds.

Of course – of course – I am a Joni Mitchell fan.  I was brought up on Blue, and A Case of You is one of my all-time favourite songs.

For some reason, I was thinking recently about one of its most famous lines: go to him, stay with him if you can, but be prepared to bleed.

When I was younger, a dramatic teenager with a stereotypical penchant for bad boys who didn’t actually like me all that much, this line made perfect sense to me.  I wasn’t only ‘prepared’ to bleed in the name of love – I kind of wanted to.  I thought it was a prerequisite.  I never even questioned it.

Then when I became a sensible twenty-something, I rejected that notion entirely – again, without thinking about it too much.  It was a stupid idea; I knew so much better now.  Metaphorical bleeding was not only undesirable but wholly unnecessary.  Anyone who thought like that was clearly a moron.

And when I think about it now?  I’m just not sure.  Maybe that’s what growing up really is: becoming less sure about some things just as you learn others.  I still agree with Joni about what love is: touching souls…and surely you touched mine, because a part of you comes out of me in these lines, from time to time.

And surely that's the only thing that matters in the end - which means that it's going to be OK either way.

jeudi 2 octobre 2014

Fictional Characters I Would Like To Be: Topaz Mortmain

'I Capture The Castle' is possibly my favourite book of all time.  Definitely top five.  It's the one I turn to when I feel sad, or a bit ill, or hungover - a comfort read, best enjoyed in a hot bath or from under a blanket.

Topaz isn't even the main character - but, to me, she is the dream.  I seriously want to be her.

The main character, and charming narrator, is the teenage Cassandra.  Topaz is her 29-year-old stepmother, a former artists' model and all-round bohemian beauty.  She likes to 'commune with nature', which means running around the garden with no clothes on.  She goes around in old moth-eaten tea dresses, or outfits she has fashioned herself from mouldy potato sacks.

She adores her husband, Mortmain (she insists upon calling him by his surname at all times, as she thinks it sounds glamorous) beyond all reasonable measure; she is convinced that he is a genius, even when everyone else is not.  She aspires to being a selfless muse type - making it a rule not to be jealous or ever to try to be controlling - but often (sweetly) fails, as she does with so many of her high-minded ideals.  I love that she has them at all.

Some of Cassandra's (very fond) observations of Topaz in her diary are truly hilarious.  Apparently talking about books with Topaz is pretty painful - she rhapsodises about 'War and Peace' and how its themes left such an impact on her that she tried to manifest her feelings on the text into a painting.  Then she can't remember what actually happened, or any of the characters' names.

But the best thing about Topaz is that she is surprisingly pragmatic and resourceful.  She is much more capable than she seems, as well as being truly kind-hearted.

That trumps having your picture hanging in the National Portrait Gallery (twice!) and looking like a strangely beautiful Greek goddess.  Although those things are pretty cool, too.