Friday, 30 October 2009


See what I did with that title there? Pretty clever. So what are you up to this weekend? It's Hallowe'en, obviously, and I trust you will all be ignoring it.

I'm doing as little as possible, with the aim to relax and spend quality time with my reading pile. To this end, tonight I'm having a Thai massage and hopefully having the living bajaysus pummelled out of me. Tomorrow night, dinner out to celebrate my stepfather's 60th birthday. We're going to Nuraghe, a Sardinian restaurant in our hood that we've seen go from one (lovely) woman and a bare room, to bustling, with tables spilling out on to the street. The food is great. Seriously, go if you're in the area!

Sunday, we're going to see José Feliciano play at the Jazz Café. I've seen him before and he was awesome, what a classic voice. And he tells bitter stories about his ex-wife. Can't wait. Have a good one, peeps!

[Photo of the bookartbookshop. The shapes in the window were a paper cut-out Hallowe'en scene that I tried, and failed, to photograph. Click to enlarge, though, and sorry it's grainy!]

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Happy Birthday, George Michael Brown.

Today is my stepfather's 60th birthday. He and my mother are heading to Paris this morning, armed with mini bottles of champagne for the train. Yippee! Mike's family were photographers so they have loads of brilliant family photographs. Here's Mike, goofy top left with the cap on. This photo appeared in the Yorkshire Post, when his class when on a school trip. Click to enlarge to check out some funny expressions.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hair, there and everywhere.

On a trip to Paris last year, I noticed that Parisian ladies proudly rock their natural brown locks and so, sheeplike, I decided to go back to my natural hair colour. Brown. Or beige, as my friend Liz puts it.

Well now I'm sick of my dog poo coloured hair and have noticed that the sneaky Parisians are up to new tricks: I've been noticing a few sneaky reddish auburn tints. Does this look like natural red to you? Or can I acquire this myself? A change is as good as a rest. I will report back.

(Top right: Julia Roitfeld from the selby. Top left from Garance Doré. )

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Of Dreams and Cities.

I'm drooling over this season of films at the National Film Theatre. 'A delicious array of architectural treats, offered in celebration of the RIBA's 175th year, looks at architects, architecture, cities and therefore me and you: the real, the imagined, the oblique, the dream and, sometimes, the nightmare.'

I'd happily watch them all. I've seen LA Plays Itself before but might go and see it again. For a film fan who loves LA it is porn-like to watch; a documentary showing hundreds of clips of films and filming in LA. Michaelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse also looks great, and Manhatta. 'The poetry of everyday life in New York City of 1921'. Yes, please.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Major shoe envy.

These are my work buddy Lauren's new shoes. She'd been banging on about whether to get them for about two weeks. (I think I might've put her off by saying they were ugly). Well, I was wrong. In person, they're AWESOME! Patent Dr Martens with a chunky medium-high heel. All cute and curvy and perfect for wearing with tights and short dresses. I want. You can buy them here.

[Lauren's my gym going buddy. Except now instead of going to the gym on my lunch hour I blog. Blogging is making me fat!]

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Smokey Robinson at the Electric Proms.

So, we saw Smokey Robinson play in London last night, as part of the Electric Proms. And I tell you what, he was brilliant. At 69 years of age, his voice and his dance moves were both startlingly good. He was positively frugging. And I can't imagine how his voice could sound any better. Smooth but smoky. He kept us entertained with little stories – quite a few about the Temptations who sang many of his songs, and who he called 'The Temps' which would be a great name for a band – and basically delivered a polished show, straight from a bygone era when singers wore suits and sang love songs. Everyone sang along, sometimes in three part harmony, as directed by Smokey – I mean, who can resist singing My Girl... My Girl... My Girl!  As Vice President of Motown throughout its heyday and the writer of so many amazing songs (see here for a list), it's incredible that he is also a masterful entertainer and yeah, possessor of an incredible voice as well. But I suppose some people are just born to be awesome. The concert is being shown tonight on BBC2 at 11pm, or on iPlayer if you miss it.

They don't make them like that anymore...

I love this picture of Burt Lancaster. From LIFE magazine: 'Actor Burt Lancaster clad in borrowed sweatshirt with towel over his shoulder while smoking cigarette in courtyard during a reminiscent visit to the Union Settlement house in E. Harlem where he participated in recreational activities during his youth.'

These pictures of him with Ava Gardner are great, too.

Friday, 23 October 2009

A proper autumn weekend in London.

I took this outside my friend Anna's house last night as I waited for her on my bike. The sky in London has been almost neon blue the last few evenings. From our office (which is on a dark, narrow street) there was a strange glow that looked as though the street had been lit for a film. It's lovely, but I'm already missing summer.

So what are you up to this weekend? We are going to see 45365 at the film festival tonight, with perhaps dinner at Wagamama (it's all about number 42). Tomorrow, we're seeing Smokey Robinson. Very excited about that. And dinner at the Bento Café beforehand, my favourite Japanese restaurant in London. (So far.) Have a good one, whatever you do!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Balmain. On a budget.

Ahh, happy days. I desperately need a new purse and was about to treat myself at the awesome Start Boutique, which is dangerously close to where I work, when I remembered some bright spark (thanks Lauren!) telling me that TK Maxx sell online. That's right, TK Maxx sell online! I've just bought this most gorgeous purse (with added studs for durability and wicked orange leather lining) and a Betsey Johnson belt, for about £40. 
I'm feeling the studs. It's all very Balmain. But on a budget. And Garance Doré shops at, so I have no shame in declaring this publicly. Yippee, no more planning day trips to TK Maxx! (OK, that I shouldn't declare publicly. Oh, wait.)

[Balmain campaign photography by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.]

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Grandma's jewellery box.

When I visited my Grandma as a child, the first thing I did – after running into the kitchen to steal the crackling from the roast pork – was run up to her bedroom and play with her jewellery box. Whenever I open it I feel as though I'm six again. Except now I can wear everything in it: I also inherited Grandma's exact taste. My mother usually says, 'You're not wearing that are you?' whenever I wear something from the box, but mainly when I wear the awesome jade pendant with a gold horse. (Shown bottom left with some of the other treasures from within.)
When I inherited the box I hadn't rifled through it properly for years. There were earrings in there that I owned exact matches of. They must've etched themselves on my psyche, and I bought them years later. Bottom middle is an old English penny, nestling in there amid the hatpins and mother-of-pearl handled knitting hooks. I might copy my friend Alexia, polish up the penny and put it on a long antique chain. Thanks for the awesome jewellery and memories, Grandma.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tasty twitter temptations.

London is catching on to the New York phenomenon of food carts twittering about the delicious treats they're selling for the day. The Albion is testing my willpower to the max. They posted these gingerbread men up yesterday. Evil. I estimate I can get from my desk to their till in eight minutes. Also, The Modern Pantry are annoying me, putting such filth as American pumpkin pie tartlets, hot fudge sauce, brownies and Lyle's Golden syrup toffees in my tweet list. I could definitely get there and back on my bike in my lunch hour. And St John are at it, torturing me with talk of roast chicken, sweetcorn and aioli...

I just wish I was strong enough to unfollow.  @AlbionsOven  @SJRestaurant @TheModernPantry

Monday, 19 October 2009

Monday music: Still Bill.

Yesterday, we saw an extraordinary new film about Bill Withers, Still Bill, as part of the BFI London Film Festival. Having led a fairly reclusive life since the late seventies, and now only giving the rarest of short performances, Mr Withers was completely disinterested in the project at first. The directors (Damani Baker and Alex Vlack) gave a short Q&A after the film and told us about their ten year mission of sheer will to make the film. But their persistence paid off. They made a remarkable film which, instead of telling the story of his music career and success, charts the man himself, what made him, and what he has become.

We see him leading a very ordinary life as his family's patriarch, visiting his home town (in rural Virginia, where his ancestors were enslaved), and visiting the graves of his father and brother, who are buried in a tangle of undergrowth beyond the well kept, 'white' part of the graveyard. We see him cry: at a fundraiser for stuttering kids (he is a stutterer), and as his daughter starts to record music. He has just turned seventy and the process of telling his story in the film seemed palpably cathartic to him. The directors said that Bill himself told them that their first five hour chat felt as though he was on the psychoanalyst's couch; at one point in the film he mentions that he is a depressive. The final result manages to touch the most personal depths of a man who has done his best to separate his life from the music business.

And all of this without really going into the genius of his music. That voice! I don't know about you, but I'm having a Bill Withers week.

[During the Q&A the directors said that Bill himself had been due to attend the screening! But he had to have a knee op. I would've dropped down dead, but hopefully not before blocking the exits and making him sing 'Grandma's Hands'. Get well soon, Bill. There is another screening at 1:30pm today at the National Film Theatre; if you're in the area, take a long lunch and go!]

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mimi Weddell, a beautiful Manhattanite.

An interesting obituary of a great sounding old dame, from yesterday's Guardian. 'Mimi Weddell disproved F Scott Fitzgerald's belief that there are no second acts in American lives. From the age of 65 until her death at 94, she at last earned her living the way she had always wanted – as a model with a neat sideline in movie bit parts, listed among New York magazine's 50 most beautiful Manhattanites and the subject of a documentary. Mimi had put in the hard work, and kept up the effort, swinging on the rings at the gym through her 80s even as her spine curved and she shrank six inches in height, willing to the end to stand the whole day at an open audition for a job.

In so far as anybody can pin down the facts of her youth and middle age, she had come (as the unglam Marion Rogers) from Williston in North Dakota, via a not-to-be-mentioned first marriage and divorce in Boston, to New York in 1941. What she had wanted since the age of 16 was to put her foot on the bar of the Hotel Astor, to drink Brandy Alexanders on the St Regis hotel roof garden, to admire hats in Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria.'

Read the rest here.

[Via The Thoughtful Dresser.]

Growly old Thelonious.

It's Friday, and what better way to start the weekend than with some happy music. (I love how you can hear Thelonious growling over the top of this as he plays.) I'm not doing much this weekend, just hanging out with the kitties and trying to settle them in. Oh, I named them by the way: Hoops and Fred. They're absolutely mental, although still quite scared of us, so I have to wheedle my way into their affections this weekend with kitty treats and surprise stroking attacks. Oh, and we're going to see the film about Bill Withers, Still Bill. Have a good one, whatever you do.

[This is an entirely random photograph I took this week, merely because it looked sunny and bright.]

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hull Fair. Again.

I know I'm going on about it, but I really wish I was going to Hull Fair this year. There are some really cute twitters about it. And the picture above (which I stole, can't remember who I took it from - sorry!) was tweeted under 'Hull Fair by morning'. Aw! I've set a reminder in my calendar to go next year.

Vietnamese? Yes, please!

I'm feeling slightly annoyed at the moment. For years, I've been traipsing up Kingsland Road to eat Vietnamese food at the little cluster of restaurants there. And usually feeling pretty meh about the experience.

Turns out the best Vietnamese restaurant in London, which apparently chefs like Rick Stein and Mark Hix make the effort to travel to, is 30 seconds walk from my desk, on Old Street. My boss always goes on about Cây Tre, but I generally ignore him on matters of taste. I've just looked at the menu and read the reviews, though. And am mourning all the meals I've missed out on. Nevermind, I'll set about making amends. Anyone up for Vietnamese?

[Take a look at the menu. Crispy battered pangasius fish maws? Wicked crispy frog? Cognac 'luc lac' shaking beef fillet mignon? Oh, Mary!]

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's Hull Fair this week.

I'm pretty much sulking my head off that I can't go. I want some candyfloss! Next year I'm definitely going. More fab pictures here.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

He really is Alan Partridge.

So, I can report that Armando Iannucci was hilarious last night. He was doing a Q+A at the Roundhouse, and reading excerpts from his new book. The excerpts were literally laugh-until-you-cry funny. And he would answer questions with long, hilarious rambling anecdotes, lapsing into Alan Partridge (who he invented and wrote! I forgot!), or doing an impression of Pope John Paul II singing Julie Andrews songs. Seriously funny. And I'm not the sort of person who likes live comedy, thinking it's vaguely the domain of drama students and people who are sort of annoying in a way I can't put my finger on.

So, I'd definitely recommend seeing his film In The Loop (hilarious), watching In The Thick of It (new series out soon - hilarious) or buying his book (seemed hilarious last night). And he twitters too – @Alanucci. Makes you feel like a bit of a loser, really, all the good shit he does. Or inspired. Yes, that's the way to look at it. *Tries to write some jokes and fails*

Monday, 12 October 2009

Crazy cat lady.

This morning I had the kind of morning I expect new mothers have when they're trying to leave the house. I was so busy ensuring there was nothing for the kittens to skewer themselves on and that they had somewhere super-cosy to sit (in the end I left my duvet on the floor, the ultimate motherly sacrifice), that along with my red plaid coat and brown patent leather and suede bag, I decided that black brogues would be perfect. I looked like Annie Hall on crack.

Luckily my favourite shoes were stashed under my desk when I got in. They have a gorgeous stacked heel, and are massively comfortable. They are by Frye, and I bought them on sale in Urban Outfitters in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. They were $30 down from about $200 and I really regret not buying another pair!

(Actually, under my desk are also some brown Minnetonka ankle boots and some gold Birkenstocks. I evidently change my mind frequently on such matters, kittens or no kittens.)

PS: I love that we're allowed to wear baggy, rolled up jeans now. I used to hate putting my skinny jeans on on Monday mornings and realising that they'd grown tighter, just over the weekend.

It's Chocolate Week.

It's Chocolate Week, dudes. Within seconds I had sniffed out my nearest event. I suggest you do too. Free chocolates! Free chocolate cocktails!

Monday Music: Aussie Rules.

I'm absolutely shattered and a woman of few words today. Which is where music comes in. My friend John sailed his thousands of jazz records over to Australia when he moved there four years ago to get married. And he's since been liberating the dusty old jazz records of Australia. I'm really looking forward to plugging in my headphones and listening to his latest mix this morning. LOUD. Wizards of Oz: Rare Australian Jazz Funk Volume One

[Picture blatantly stolen from my friend Ben. One of some awesome pictures he took of the dust storm in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. Too tired to email to ask, let's see if he notices. Oh, and if you do read this Ben, I was wondering if taking photos in a dust storm would mess up your camera?]

Friday, 9 October 2009

Happy Birthday, John.

Preparing for total furmination.

So these two little cuties will be arriving at my never-to-be-the-same-again flat tomorrow, at 3:30pm.

Top right is the little grey kitten I posted about last week, who I caught staring up at James. They became available at the rescue again. So this morning I swooped. It's going to be chaos. Wish me luck!

In bed with Andy Warhol.

There's an hour long show on Radio 4 about Andy Warhol tomorrow: David Bailey interviewing him in bed in 1979, and Jerry Hall and Bailey talking about the time they spent with him.

I'm interested to hear it, because I have spent the last year, on and off, reading Warhol's diaries. They're 800 pages long – which is why it is taking me so long –  but they're a really compelling read, a snapshot of the most rich and glamorous social strata in New York at that time. (They cover the early 1970s up to the mid-1980s.)

I'm especially interested to hear what Jerry Hall has to say about Warhol, because he didn't really have anything nice to say about her in his diaries. And how funny is the picture above: it's as if Jerry and Bianca are partying out and saying, 'We rich now!'

Archive On 4 – When Bailey Met Warhol
Saturday 10 October, 8.00-9.00pm, BBC Radio 4

[Sorry couldn't find who took this photo. Apologies!]

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Pretty, pretty makeup.

Look at this pretty makeup from US brand Cargo. This is a skin illuminator. It's supposed to brighten up English rose complexions and it looks like a Polly Pocket. It was in my cart within seconds. Free shipping from Puresha until 15th October with code FDL09.

Allsort or umbrella?

Last night, cycling home on the black, slippery streets of London, I was patiently waiting in the pouring rain for a chance to turn onto a very busy, narrow main road when a lady cycled past me with an UMBRELLA.

Now, I've long championed casual commuter cycling. No lycra for me thanks, pal. But even I donned ridiculous bright yellow Dickies plastic pants for the journey home last night. And a hi-vis Sam Browne. I looked like a Licorice Allsort.

And she had an umbrella!

Madness, I tell you.

[Couldn't find a credit for this picture, so I'm sorry if it's yours!] 

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I will conker you.

Someone left a conker on my keyboard at work. Is this some kind of challenge? If so...

...bring it.

[Buy these crazy cloth conkers here.]

A cat sneaking into a bag for a minute's peace is the best thing in the world.

This is my gorgeous friend Layla's cat, Molly. This is Layla's caption, and how right she is. How could this furry little peaceseeker fail to brighten your day? I hope you all manage to find a minute's peace today. This rainy weather in London blows!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

My favourite veg-e-tables.

When I take my vegetables out of the fridge to wash them, I like to imagine them cheering. Like, they're all happy that it's their turn to get cooked. It encourages me to actually use them up. Does that make me mental? Anyway, my next Abel and Cole delivery is tomorrow, and I'm taking advantage of their buy four vegetable boxes in a row and get £50 credit promotion, so tonight I'm chopping vegetables. It's an especially good deal for me, because I buy the boxes anyway. It's basically the only way I can get fresh vegetables into my house when I'm really busy during the week. You can use the code up until the 10th October.

[Abel and Cole seriously are good, I use them for all my other shopping as well. Milk, cheese, cider, pies - they've got it all going on. Not that these are the staples of my diet, you understand. Oh, nevermind.]

[Abel and Cole food box picture with thanks from]

Cats & Kittens.

So we went to meet Jam the cat in her foster home on Saturday. Although she was gorgeous and sweet (and I probably would've taken her on the spot if I could've), we have decided that a special needs cat isn't the right thing for us, as we just don't have the time to give the cat the attention that it would need.

We're going to get two kittens, I think. The sight of James and a six-inch tall grey kitten staring each other out at the rescue centre won me over.

But if you do want a gorgeous black shiny cat who has just started to purr for the first time (arghhh! heartstrings!) then call the Mayhew Animal Hospital and ask about Jam.

[Steve Martin ironing a kitten by Henry Diltz] 

Monday, 5 October 2009

James – look away now. DO NOT READ THIS POST.

I don't know how I've never heard about this film before. Jerry Seinfeld retiring all of his old stand-up material in a show on Broadway. A whole 78 minutes of his best stuff, live! I've just ordered it as a surprise for James. This is going to make the best date night EVER.

[Spotted on the lovely A Cup of Jo.]

In Treatment.

I first read about HBO drama In Treatment in this piece in the Observer. And immediately had to seek it out and binge-watch the whole thing.

Gabriel Byrne (fit) plays psychotherapist Dr Paul Weston, and each episode sees him have a session with a different patient. The series runs across five consecutive evenings, so in a week you see sessions with four clients, and in the final episode Dr Weston's session with his own therapist (played brilliantly by Dianne West).

The result is intense performances from brilliantly cast and scripted actors. If you're a psychology nerd like me it is, frankly, porn. Sky Arts are showing it from tonight at 10pm. Perfect winter viewing.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The disappearin' railroad blues.

There was a great programme on Radio 4 today about the relationship between trains and music. It explored the American railroad's influence on music, including the song City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman, apparently the best train song ever written. I need to listen to more train songs. You can still listen to the programme here. This accoustic version of the song is really great.

[Picture courtesy of Union Pacific.]

Friday, 2 October 2009

And breathe...

It's the weekend, dudes. Thank goodness. It has been a week of glorious sunsets and people seeming to be slightly grumpy. I just have to get through a summit meeting at work this morning (it's either pay rise or P45) and then it's a weekend of fun, fun, fun. I'm going to meet a cat called Jam. And we're going for dinner at Moro. (With some friends, not with the cat.) I can still remember a cold crab soup I had there about ten years ago, and I'm hoping for a re-run. Have yourselves a long lunch hour and a lovely weekend, people.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Lost New York City.

I love this blog. This guy is making it his project to track and rail against every change to his favourite menus, bars, buildings and areas of New York. And good on him! If you read my feeble rant against the further hipsterisation of East London a couple of weeks ago, you will know I'm one of those grumpy people that doesn't like it when cities change. This is a picture I took in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn last time I was there of a shopfront that was giving off an eerie, bygone vibe.

This post about an ancient pharmacy selling off its old stock is a particular nugget. But there are more informative, complete guides to areas that even an occasional visitor to New York will recognise.