vendredi 27 mai 2016

Friday, Never Hesitate

It's Friday.  I am wearing new dungarees.  Dungarees make me feel weirdly sexy.

It's sunny.  It's about to be a long weekend.  I ate eggs and avocado for breakfast.

I feel very lucky right now to get to live in Brighton and work on the South Bank.  This week, I have seen open-air theatre at the end of my road and a giant hamster trundling past my office.  True stories, both (see: my Instagram).

This weekend, I will be hanging out with dear family and friends to celebrate my mother's upcoming wedding.  My bag is packed with a sage smudge stick, a turban, my swimsuit and a lot of eyeliner.

Whenever I feel filled with such inexplicable little everyday joys, this is my psychic soundtrack song.  It is in my head today.  Last listened to in Ibiza on a trampoline while my friends were still in bed, I sang along quietly to myself and literally wept with joy.  It still reminds me of Saturday mornings in my first flat in Brighton, windows open and dancing around the kitchen.

Beautiful Elliott.  Face of a boxer, voice of an angel - still the hottest juxtaposition there is.

"I may not seem quite right - but I'm not fucked, not quite."

mercredi 25 mai 2016

Hometown Tours

My cousin is moving to Brighton. She is also one of my best friends (hence we call each other ‘frousin’), so this is exciting news. It’s also a good chance for me to look at my adopted home city through new eyes.

Brighton is a lovely place to live. They say it’s the home of people who can’t make up their minds – it’s a city, by the sea, surrounded by countryside. I’ve been living here for over a decade, and I probably take it for granted in some ways by now – but I do know that if I moved anywhere else, there are a lot of things I would miss.

My frousin came to stay at the weekend, and it was lovely to show her around some of my favourite haunts.  My well-worn running routes, hidden gems and the little local things that are of no interest to anyone but residents. Brighton is such a recognisable place but – I guess like many tourist cities – most of it goes under the radar. I sometimes go weeks without seeing the sea (sadly).  It’s certainly easy to plan out your life so you never have to see a tourist, if you like. (Although I must be the only long-term resident of Brighton who loves going on the pier at any opportunity.)

It’s fun to show someone else your favourite places. The great cafes that are so important to a Saturday afternoon (at the moment, my friends and I barely seem to go a weekend without popping into Pelicano, home of the best cake in Brighton). Slightly out-of-the-way parks for a moment of calm (Blakers Park being my current favourite). Local restaurants (Pizza 500, at the very far end of London Road, under a viaduct, makes me feel like I’m on holiday). The best charity shops for records and the best ones for household tat (mostly along London Road and Blatchington Road). The list goes on – hit me up if you need obscure recommendations, seriously.

I feel quite proud of where I live, which is nice.  All this also takes me back to the time when I first washed up in Brighton – on a total whim and with a brave/stupid lack of resources (no job, no flat, no friends and barely even any acquaintances), which seems to be surprisingly common among Brighton residents.  I had no idea where I was going; I had only ever been to Brighton once, for a weekend, and like most people I had pretty much only seen the seafront and the Lanes. I wasn’t particularly expecting to stay long.  But I found my feet and now it’s my home.  It’s nice to share it.

lundi 23 mai 2016

My most successful friend: a love letter of sorts

N is one of those friends who I don’t see enough of, but when we do it’s like we only saw each other yesterday.

There was a time when I wouldn’t go a day without seeing him; we were inseparable. We came as a pair. He turned 21 the same month I turned 18. We would get dressed up and go out clubbing every single night, then spend endless hungover days on the sofa watching crap TV. We even had a secret night out at the Tube every Wednesday, which we didn’t tell any of the others about, in case they wanted to come – it was just for us.  (And Anthony the barman, who once wrote me a poem, pushed under a toilet door while I sat in there and cried.)

Of course, we hated each other at first. We’re too similar, both territorial and secretly thin-skinned. Then we bonded over 80s Kylie and Jason, and agreed that Hit Me Baby One More Time may in fact be the saddest song ever written. I declared that he was like Morrissey and Johnny Marr trapped in the same body, even though he didn’t like The Smiths. We became best friends overnight. It was like a mad love affair, only better.

He still makes me laugh like nobody else on earth, acerbic wit hiding the staunchest heart and strongest moral compass of anyone I know. He is the best dancer you’ve ever seen, and makes me about 20% better at dancing when I am in his presence. He’s that kind of a person. We disagree on almost every subject (politics, especially) but I always respect his opinion.

I would say without a doubt that N is now my most successful friend. He has an amazing career and has been sensible with his money. More than that, he has a wonderful long-term marriage, cats, houses; he is close to his family and does a lot for charity (ssh, don’t tell anyone).

When we met, we were both horribly unhealthy in every imaginable way, with every bad habit you can imagine (and some you probably can’t); N now has a personal trainer and the constitution of an athlete.

While most of my friends (and, yeah OK, myself) have been going through early-to-mid 30s crises of varying degrees – fucking up and panicking all over the place, taking last-ditch attempts to change our lives in often inadvisable ways – N has weathered the same dangers with unwavering solidity, through sheer hard work. He’s got the same problems as everyone else, of course – he has just learned how to handle them really, really well.

Recently, he has given me the best advice of anyone and has made me feel positive and strong about the future – whatever that looks like. His energy is contagious and makes me feel better about the world.

He texted me these wise (and typically self-deprecating) words this morning,

‘I’m literally making it up as I go along, hahaha. It’s amazing that having a bit of confidence makes other people think you know what you are doing. Quite hilarious.’

Everybody needs a friend like N, and I will be forever grateful for mine.

vendredi 20 mai 2016

Nous aurons toujours Paris

I’m on a post-holiday reading jag, and I’m currently on my second memoir of the week (I love a good memoir), The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. I’m only about a third of the way through, and it’s wonderful. Beautifully, lyrically written and just a little bit strange, there is stuff in there that I relate to (maybe a bit too much, given that it’s about, among other things, addiction) and landscapes that are all foreign and new to me, filtered through the eyes of someone else – maybe the perfect combination.

Earlier this week, I read We’ll Always Have Paris (Trying and Failing to be French) by Emma Beddington.  A lovely, lovely book.  I bought it because I liked the cover (and am a bit of a casual Francophile, in my striped dress and a leather jacket that I like to think is a bit Jane Birkin-y – I know she’s not actually French but come on), but there was a lot more to it than I anticipated.  An unexpectedly emotional journey, rather than just a jolly hop across the channel and back.

France is one of those places I have always felt a huge affinity for. My parents had a house in France when I was growing up. I do realise how absurdly privileged that sounds, and feel obliged to point out here that it was literally a shack in rainy Normandy that they bought on a credit card in the late 80s.

Every chance we got, my parents would bundle my sister and me up in the back of the car with our duvets and drive to the ferry at Dover. Many of my childhood memories are set in that damp, romantic little house: the round porthole window in my bedroom, the stone floors, the rocking chair in front of the open fire, birds coming down the chimney, nearly drowning in the river at the bottom of the garden, hanging out with Aude the farmer’s granddaughter, walking with my dad to the boulangerie in the morning. I can physically feel the ground under my feet there as I write this. It smells of a particular sort of green.

The first time I went to Paris I was seven. My parents took me for Valentine’s Day. I have no idea why. I insisted on wearing my beret at all times (‘to fit in’) and had my portrait drawn in Montmartre. My dad still has the portrait on the wall in his house. There’s one of my sister at the same age, hanging next to it.

On that first trip, my parents took me to their favourite Parisian restaurant. My mum has been going there since she was a student; I have been there, with her and on my own, many times since. I took my ex-boyfriend there for dinners on Valentine’s Day and his birthday. I took my best friend there for lunch on her 30th birthday. Every time, I keep the menu – they print it daily with the date on it. I can measure out my life in Chartier menus.

I always enjoy flying and I love the Eurostar (so glamorous!) but more than that, and weirdly, I still adore a ferry. It reminds me of school trips and adventures, and they are always full of strange characters (especially the foot passengers – we always feel like a bunch of outlaws and some of them probably really are).

I am disproportionately fond of the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry. It’s unassuming and lo-fi but still, to me, innately glamorous and exciting – all the more so for being a bit of a secret and underrated gem. I have had some of the loveliest times of my life in those two supposedly insalubrious port towns, both with their industry and their rough bars and their pebble beaches. The ferry journey between the two never fails to delight me – windswept decks, computer games, overpriced bar, uncomfortable seats to try and sleep in, the lot. For not much money and in four hours, you can get to a whole other country. Best of all, it’s France. And the thing about France is, even in a supposedly insalubrious port town, you can still eat mussels and drink wine and have romantic adventures – and you’re in France. I can say with the weight of experience and full sincerity, even a McDonalds breakfast can be wildly romantic in France.

I remember once saying, in seriousness as I savoured the moment: ‘we’re in love, it’s sunny and we’re in France’. What could be better? I think I may even have been eating a crepe at the time, a late-morning Pastis on the table in front of me. That same day, I got chatting to two elderly French women who spotted my notebook and asked me if I was une écrivaine. I have, obviously, never been happier.

I finished We’ll Always Have Paris sitting at my kitchen table, eating Camembert for dinner. Wearing a stripe. Daffodils in the Pastis jug. Pictures on the walls.  Yeah, we’ll always have it. Somehow. Even if I’m now learning Spanish.

mardi 17 mai 2016

Talking so brave.

A conversation:

"I still think about him all the time."
"Every day?"

Later that same morning:

This song came up on shuffle while I was sunbathing in the garden.  Incidentally, I think this is a great cover - it retains the spirit of the (obviously wonderful) original, but gives it something extra.  Lightens it up, just a little.  In fact, I recommend the whole I'm Your Fan covers album (Nick Cave, The Pixies and REM being my other favourite highlights therein).

A thought:

The last line of this song.

'I remember you well, at the Chelsea Hotel
I don't think of you that often.'

I wonder, is that the aim, in the end?  The idea of memories receding fills me with terror, but maybe the aim is to be ready to let them get smaller.  Less often.  Less.  Let go.

Remember them well.  Think about them sometimes.  Just not that often.

lundi 16 mai 2016


Today is my first real day back in non-hippie world after a week (and a little bit) in beautiful Ibiza.

We stayed in a lovely house by the beach; with a cat to fuss over, a roof terrace to sunbathe on and a trampoline for my daily exercise and general joy.  I honestly am not sure I have ever been purely happier than when bouncing on a trampoline in the sunshine, with Prince on my headphones.

We ate a lot of great food, swam in the sea and went for long walks.  On a rainy day, I even did a bit of drawing, for the first time in many years.  I did a bit of gentle writing and a lot of thinking, good and bad.  I left my phone at home (no Twitter! no Instagram!), and was surprised at how little I missed it.

I have come back with a suntan, a renewed sense of purpose and a cool painting by this lady that I bought in a Mexican restaurant.

My post-holiday shopping list includes a little trampoline of my own, a yellow vest and Reebok high-tops.

Now, back to the real world...

mardi 3 mai 2016

Stuff. Nonsense. Things.

Hello, there.  It's been a while.  Not intentionally.

I haven't even been *that* busy.  I just haven't had anything very pressing to say ('doesn't usually stop you, ECW!' I hear you cry).  I think this may be a good thing.  I have been doing the usual stuff lately, I suppose.  I have been reading a lot of books, watching a lot of films, eating a lot of avocados, wearing a lot of dungarees.

I had a brilliant trip to Manchester for a weekend, where I danced to Joy Division under disco lights, bought Smiths records, gained a new earring, drank/ate a five-dollar milkshake, watched a truly impressive (and joyous) St George's Day parade through a very rainy Sunday morning in the Northern Quarter.  The Northern Quarter reminded me of Brooklyn - I loved it.

Yesterday, I went on the most delightful of day trips to Charleston.  It was genuinely unique and amazingly inspiring (I hope that doesn't sound too ridiculous).  Honestly, it made me want to write a masterpiece and above all to live brilliantly and bravely.  It is so important to be reminded of this sometimes, with places and art and people who feed our souls and remind us of the things that are really important.  Those Bloomsbury types had it right - it's all about art and ideas.