Monday, 3 March 2014

50 Shades of Neon

A couple of years ago I decided grey was my colour, and somehow ended up with 11 cardigans and jumpers all in varying shades of grey. It was the solution to all my wardrobe woes – they all went with denim, all went with black and white tops, and consequently getting dressed required no brain activity whatsoever. When my donkey-coloured cashmere cardi from Zara went all holey in the elbows last November, I popped down to Liberty, bought some black needle cord elbow patches and Bob’s your Uncle, I was back in the game. Then a couple of months ago mum said to me, “I’m fed up with seeing you in drab colours all the time. What’s wrong with you? Are you depressed?” Taking slight issue with the fact that my choice of clothing was supposed to directly correlate with my mental state, I did stop and realise that far from having mastered the art of the capsule wardrobe, I’d in fact got lazy and boring. So my New Year’s Resolution for 2014 was to start wearing more colour and to wear those clothes that I saved for ‘special', every day. So number one purchase (because all paths lead to shopping) was a cobalt blue slouchy jumper from Hush. Good work. Then I found an old coral pink Breton stripe Reiss top languishing unloved and unused at the bottom of my jumper drawer and started wearing that. And actually, just with a couple of injections of colour in to my wardrobe, I did start to feel a little bit, I don’t know, bouncier. Then suddenly, this whole colour thing became totally out of control and before I knew it I’d bought a neon pink jacket from H&M. Whoah! When would this madness end? Well apparently, it wouldn’t. And despite the fact that my pasty March skin is most underprepared for such a turn of events, I’ve become incurably and inexplicably drawn to all things neon. First the panic set in. But then I realised that far from becoming an 80s throw back, I’d simply been brainwashed by the fashion industry who wanted me to want to buy all things neon. Phew, that’s ok, I thought, because when the weather is so grey and drab outside, perhaps a little bit of neon is just the ticket to stop me moaning about the absence of any heatwaves for a few weeks. So....

So I thought perhaps some highlighter pink in the bedroom and found the sheets above, £59, from Rockett St George (see top). I actually think this might be a good fluorescent compromise because with low lighting it wouldn’t require prolific application of Fake Bake.

Ok this may not be strictly Neon but I think it still counts. I actually bought this necklace from Wrap months ago, waited ages for it to arrive because I was on a waiting list (probably because at £28 it’s a bit of a bargain for a collar necklace), but then I had to send it back because it fell apart the first time I wore it (probably why other collar necklaces are a bit more expensive). But anyway, I forgave it for being faulty because I love it so much, and I’m now on another waiting list and apparently won’t get a replacement until May. I secretly had hoped it would also magically transform me into the woman who is modeling it, but I can confirm that this doesn’t actually happen people.

I quite fancy having a neon sign in my living room. I don’t really know why. Perhaps so that I could feel like I lived in some kind of trendy loft apartment in the packing district of New York rather than with my mum (another story). So I was going to show you a smart one I found on Notonthehighstreet. But then I found this for £40 on iwantoneofthose and thought of my big brother who is a total superhero nerd. I might buy this for him for his birthday. He’ll pretend it’s really for his boys, but will secretly love it and turn it on at night, and stand with his hands on his hips looking up at the sky with a little muscle twitching in his jaw.

I always like the idea of being one of those women who fly with ‘products’ that preserve their complexions during their flight so they emerge looking all sparkling and shiny haired. The best I do is traveling with a few Dermalogica samples that my friend gives me which I end up accidentally squirting all over the seat in front. To be honest, I’m not really sure flying to Belfast a couple of times a year with Easy Jet truly justifies the purchase of this Anya Hindmarch Neon In Flight bag, but it’s a snip at £150 from Net-a-Porter… ahem.

A new pair of Converse is actually on my spring wish list. These are currently 30% off at Luisa Varoma, so if it does turn out that buying them in fluorescent yellow was a BIG mistake, at £39 it won’t be such a big mistake, if you know what I mean…

I love Hush. With a new baby last November, their autumn/winter catalogue was definitely the most read book in our house. This fluro stripe tee, £35, is going to be my go to item for the 'I-just-threw-it-on-and-got-covered-in-baby-vomit' look that I’m going to rock this spring.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Yesterday, according to Isobel (nearly six), was ‘Insect’ Day, which is why my sister and I thought it would be a great idea to take her, Zach (three) and Elodie and Alana (19 and 14 weeks), to The Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs. It was a great idea, but when you have a toddler who wants to be carried before you've even finished buying the train tickets, two enormous prams, a million stairs and no lifts, your enthusiasm quickly loses its lustre. But it’s ok, we thought. Because once we do get there it will just be us rattling around that giant museum like five smug little ball bearings. Since it was inset day surely we’d have the run of the place, because all the other kids were back at school, right? Yep, back at school, and celebrating that fact with a day trip to The Natural History Museum apparently...
Ten hours later, a shell of my former self with rows of unruly pupils in fluorescent jackets flashing before my eyes, I needed a soothing activity before being woken up at 3am for the night feed. Now I'd not actually been to The Natural History Museum since I was on one of those school trips myself, flying around with my fluffy bob and a clipboard, sketching diagrams of volcanoes and wondering whether my £1.50 spending money would stretch to a pencil and a rubber shaped like a Diplodocus. I think I actually returned home with a jar of Stegosaurus Chutney which, having let my friends dip their fingers in on the coach journey home, I proudly gifted to my mum. Dinosaur flavoured relish aside, museum gift shops are actually little havens for quirky and original things, and last night I discovered that thanks to the wordwide web I don't even have to leave my sofa to shop them, let alone zone 6. How about:

This Stirr from The Science Museum (£12) which I think I must buy in order to achieve the perfect pancake batter on Tuesday (or some such other excuse)

Or this waterproof notebook, £10. I have LOTS of notebooks. So many that I actually had to tell people not to buy me any at Christmas because the pressure of filling all the pretty books on my shelf is just weighing me down. But what with the terrible weather this winter I think this waterproof notebook and pencil is almost an essential. I’m not quite sure how I’ve survived with the regular paper and lead sort. Honestly.

I love the V&A shop, it’s full of so many beautiful things, and this Pearl Ume Branch brooch, £85, by Michael Michaud would look amazing on a black dress, and particularly good inside a pretty little box addressed to me... 

One day, I would like an art wall with an eclectic mix of prints and old photographs and witty typography and old maps all artily displayed in mismatched frames. I think this limited edition print from Tom Frost, £60, would be a good start.

I'm not very good at dropping hints (see above), so I might also like this "Things you must do to make me happy" print from The Southbank Centre on said wall. A simple tick-box system equals the key to marital bliss. A bargain for just £5.99 don't you think?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Something Sweet: Mmmmmmarshmallows…

My friend informed me that if you have less than seven consecutive hours sleep a night you are cognitively impaired. Pah, I think, as I walk into the doorframe and return the telephone handset to the cheese compartment of the fridge. Cognitively impaired? Moi? In fact, the only real consequence of my serious lack of sleep these last few weeks is a three-Toblerone-a-week habit. Sorry, that is a three GIANT Toblerone-a-week habit. And I don’t share. If my husband reaches for a single piece it’s like he’s tried to kidnap the baby and swap her for camels. “I’m tired!” I snap, as I polish off the last three triangles (in one mouthful – just to be on the safe side).
Anyway last month I had to briefly give up dairy. Well you can imagine what a happy week that was. It was like there was a giant pyramid-shaped hole in my heart, which nothing, not even back-to-back viewing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer series 1 and 2, could remedy. This was serious.
  And then, these little beauties landed on my doorstep. Squidgy cubes of handmade marshmallow from Mallow and Marsh.

Look at them…

And you you can get them in a box with a selection of flavours – I had vanilla (amazing), coconut (amaaaaazing), raspberry (crikey), and chocolate and peppermint (no sharing). It’s a bit like eating real Turkish delight for the first time when all you’ve eaten is that chocolate-coated jelly you get in boxes of Milk Tray.
And it makes me wonder what those things I’ve been roasting over BBQs and bonfires for the last 30 years actually are?

This is cappuccino flavour.

And my favourite…. Coconut.

Oooo and you can get monthly subscriptions! Toblerone Shlmoblerone.
Er, what do you mean you want one of my marshamallows? Back off... I’m cognitively impaired don't you know... 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

LOVE IS Getting it half price

I fell off the face of the earth for a few months. I’ll try not to let it happen again. You see, I had a baby and moved house, two things I don’t intend to do again in a hurry. So anyway, today I opened my inbox to 5672 unread messages. So I read the first three and then indiscriminately deleted vast swathes of the rest. “Make time for love this Valentine’s Day” DELETE. “Discover the secret of eternal youth” DELETE. “Cats in Funny Hats” Oo, FILE.
Anyway, at 4559, one message did catch my eye. “Love is… not telling her it was half price!” Huh? Are you crazy? That would be missing the best trick in the bag. Because personally love is most certainly a bargain, and if I agreed with Valentine’s Day (which I don’t), and didn’t think it’s only good for taking your mum and nan round the fish shop for some haddock and mushy peas (which I do), I’d not only be pretty chuffed at getting a present, but on discovering it was half price would probably be reduced to a wobbling rapturous mess on the carpet. Just me? Anyway... The problem is that most typical Valentine's presents are either useless (anyone seen my solid silver heart anywhere?), ridiculous (soft toys that you didn't own aged 8 should be banned),or require a spray tan and crash diet (no-one is more comfortable in a lace shoestring thong than your big stretchy cotton pair from Marks anyway). So here are a few things I thought I might like for a Valentine's present, all with the added thrill of being on sale (swoon…).

Glitter’s not just for Christmas and this silver nail lacquer, £3.95 from £12 at Anthropologie will make you feel sparkly even if you accidentally leave the house looking like a plucked hedgehog.

I love Plumo. And I love these earrings even more now they are reduced to £55 from £89.

Pretty, pretty. A snip at £139 from £199 at Achica if you're boyfriend/ husband is feeling generous...

Part of me hates the shabby chicness, but the other part of me hearts this lantern from the Dotcomgiftshop.It is Valentine's Day after all, and since it costs far less than a glass of pinot, it would be rude not to really. £2.95 from £6.99!

I love cushions and I really like this embroidered one from Dotcomgiftshop, a bargain at £9.95 from £34.95.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

It’s the little things…

I've been gone.  I'm not really sorry, because I've just been feeling too awful to be sorry. But I have been feeling a bit guilty, and now I'm back I can definitely confirm that the little things really do make a difference. Because the moment this tiny baby inside me hit the size of a kidney bean, it was like I was riding the Mary Rose after a candy floss and cherryade binge - all day. Morning sickness?! Pah! Bizarrely, my pregnancy app has just informed me it's now the size of a banana (?!), and this very moment is the first time in 13 weeks I felt I could say anything at all without punctuating every sentence with the phrase, "feel sick." Oh yes, I've been fun to be around these last few months...
One thing I have been dwelling on a lot lately, as my brain has slowly turned to porridge and I fight the urge to drink entire jugs of chicken stock, has been what a massive difference something so tiny can make. Because aside from the excitement and terror and fuzziness that comes with finding out that in a few months time you are going to have your very own wrinkly-faced (and hopefully not too angry) little creature to love and look after, there has been a slow creeping realisation about what this means for me. I mean, I'm not a young blushing 20-something - I've had plenty of time to get all selfish and stuck in my ways. Years and years have gone by in which I've been able to do exactly what I wanted. I've had acres of time to devote to naval gazing and writing mile-long lists of resolutions and ambitions. Life has been about me, me, me, and unfortunately I'm not sure I've used it very wisely until now. And now, all those things that really matter to me, have to take second place. Because I already know that nothing is going to be more important than this little kicking banana. Anyway, in an attempt to make the most of my last four months sans enfant, i've signed up to this month's Camp Nano in an attempt to have a first draft complete by mid August. I only need to write 1600 words a day to do it which takes me about an hour and a half. Yup, just an hour and a half a day to a first draft in six weeks. Oh, and apparently if I spend fifteen minutes four times a week doing the Matt Roberts arm workout I can also have arms like Sam Cam and Michelle Obama.  Ah, I feel better already. It really is the little things...

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Life is Long… if you know how to use it

This blog was supposed to be about how miffed I am with winter. How this time last year I was basking in the sunshine in a flimsy dress at my friend’s wedding, rather than sat at my desk, wrapped in a rug with a hot water bottle on my lap watching a few pathetic snowflakes float past the window.  I was all set to write about how much I loathe winter; how it saps my motivation, feeds on my good nature, and since it appears to be depriving us of spring for yet another month, how I’m going to make a blanket fort under which I’ll sit and read Harry Potter until flipflops became viable footwear again.
  Then I opened the paper and saw the news about Iain Banks, and realised how very silly I am. He’s only 59, has written around 30 books since he was 30 years old; in 2008, The Times voted him one of Britain’s best writers since 1945, and he only has a few months left to live. He once said, “I write because I love it... [and]... I’ve spent most of my life trying to do it better.” And I can’t stop thinking about that. About how sad I am for him and his family, but also about how much time I waste in excuses. How every week, every month, every season, there’s a fresh reason as to why I haven’t done the things I really want to do. I read some Seneca earlier this year, who is all about how life is long - if you know how to use it. That had quite an impact on me at the time, but I clearly promptly forgot that lesson. The news of Iain Banks has brought it back to me though with a resounding drum. And so spring may not have arrived yet, but I mustn’t wait around for a new season, or anything else when I find myself feeling low, unmotivated or uninspired. Instead, we all need to start owning our time again right now, so that 29 years down the line, we might all be lucky enough to look back and say, 'I've spent it doing the thing I love.'

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Busy is a Four Letter Word

“Hello, how are you?”
“Busy! Busy, busy, busy. I don’t even have time to go to the loo. I’d hate not to be busy though, wouldn’t you?”

Erm, well, no actually. I’d love it. Love it more than the invention of a calorie-free Cadbury’s Crème egg, or being a contestant on a Supermarket Sweep in Waitrose. You know this is clearly a big deal - I love Waitrose. Busyness may be the new moral virtue, but I’d in fact much rather work about six and a half hours a day and spend the rest of the time staring out the window, going for a walk, working my way through my unread bookshelves, and drinking bottomless pots of tea with my mates. Who wouldn’t? Fact is, we can’t. For a start that would be ‘lazy’ and being lazy is BAD. And then of course, we need to earn money so that we can buy stuff and do stuff, and then when all that stuff has worn us down so we can just about update our FB status with the word ‘Ugh’, we can then maybe afford a few days holiday during which we can try to forget all that stuff for a while.

I’ve never really had time to think about it before, but isn't this just totally bonkers? Surely the meaning of life isn't diarising yourself in to exhaustion? I thought all this technology was supposed to make our lives easier. But I guess that’s exactly it; computers can do it all for us, which means we are no longer valued for our skills, but in fact paid for our proficiency at multi-tasking an unending barrage of stuff. Oh, and on top of that, most of us have a sneaking suspicion that what we do makes absolutely no meaningful difference whatsoever, and we therefore cram the scrap of life we have leftover with as much as possible so we have no time to think about how stupid it all is. Basically, if you’re not so stressed you put the cat in the cot and the baby out the cat flap, you’re not trying hard enough.

But I now know that this is not only crazy stressful, but that being lazy is actually good for you. I don’t mean the stuff your face with leftover kebab while watching Jeremy Kyle lazy. I mean allowing lazy to become an acceptable part of everyday, and not a dirty word. Because we need it. I’m not making this up just because I want an excuse to finish Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop which I started a month a go and am not even half way through despite being desperate to know what it’s all about. There are actual scientific facts here that tell us that all this doing and never being is wrong. I mean catastrophically wrong – unless you want to be an anxious, psychologically imbalanced, heart attack prone, intolerant maniac, with a toxic soup of stress hormones bubbling away inside of you. Personally, I have enough of those in my life already. So this is how I propose to introduce a bit more calm and contemplation to my everyday life:

Daydream more Some would say this isn’t possible, but there is a difference between an overactive imagination and a lovely daydream. It’s also the only way I’m going to figure out the novel I’m writing so I’m going to allow myself at least 10 minutes daydreaming a day. Daydreaming is also supposed to dampen down cortisol and enhance your problem-solving skills, so I’ll have a bit of that too thank you.

Whistle Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler Academy suggested taking up the ukulele to strum your stresses away. Musical instruments cost money though even teeny tiny ones, so I think whistling is the next best thing. I mean, have you ever heard of an unhappy whistler? I rest my case.

Buy less I have this terrible habit of whenever I feel stressed or unhappy I buy things. It could be anything from a small box of coloured mini bulldog clips (yesterday), to a cashmere granddad top from Hush (which I’ll inevitably return and therefore have to pay £8 in p&p for the pleasure). I’m going to stop that. Because spending money, involves having to work stupid hours and not getting to see the people you love.

Go for more walks… I do walk quite a lot as it happens, but usually just to the shops which only serves me to feel a little more miserable and stressed because of all the things I’ve bought/ decide I need but can’t afford. But walking is so good for the soul. If you have an obliging companion it's also particularly good for talking about some pretty natty issue (like in the car where it’s easier to say stuff you’d never dream of saying otherwise, because eye contact is not possible). It also means I should probably get a dog. Which leads me to…

Get a pet… Because I can't remember being happier than when i used to lay on the floor with my dog Bessie and rub her silky ears over my mouth. Gross isn't it. But true. So my pet of choice would be a dog. But I guess you could get a cat instead, or a house rabbit (although I’ve heard some pretty disturbing ejaculation stories). Just don’t get anything that lives in a cage because if you’re anything like me you’ll feel sorry for it, let it wander freely around the house, and then you will have a hamster stuck somewhere behind the living room wall chewing up the electrics.

Read proper books… I know every woman’s magazine says this (I’ve probably written it a million times myself, sorry), but I need to stop using technology every waking moment. When I started relaying this advice in just about every health piece I wrote about three years ago, it made me aware of the fact that when I spend all day plugged in, I feel this little walnut-sized ball of anxiety in my chest. So switch off. Read a book. Write stuff with a proper pen and paper.  Have a snooze on the settee. Sew (since that's what everyone's doing these days). Just don’t look at a screen every waking moment.

I think that's enough to be getting along with. Although if you have any top calming ideas i'd love to hear them.