Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Style inspiration: Natalie Hartley.

It's so easy to get stuck in a fashion rut. That thing of thinking, well, I really liked the look I had in 2001 and I looked good then, so I think I'll just put myself on sartorial hold and dress as though I'm a member of the All Saints forever.

Luckily for Londoners, everywhere you go you get to see new trends unfolding and new ways to wear things you already own. Sitting on the platform at my tube station is like being at a fashion show, a lot of the time. I also love Natalie Hartley's blog for this. She is a fashion editor who systematically goes through the trends and translates them into her own wardrobe, offering practical advice on how best to update your look and keep it modern. I've learnt loads of tips from her, such as chucking a pair of brogues on, loose shirts over shorts and dresses, knot your shirt if you're wearing something high waisted... It's a great blog to browse for ideas if you feel you might be slipping into a rut. Care to share where you get your inspiration from?

[Image courtesy of Natalie Hartley.]

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Do you realise?

The effect music has on how we feel is on my mind a lot, lately. I went to a lecture on humanism and the arts at the weekend, which talked about how, in the absence of faith in gods, we seek to find an equivalent spiritual nourishment in the arts. To highlight this point quite perfectly a choir came on and sang this song. I have to say, it almost took me out. I've seen this song sung at a wedding before and if you look at the comments to this clip you can see people saying they would want it played at their funeral, that it reminds them of lost loved ones, and so on. What makes this song, and the other pieces of music that are personal to you, so powerful? It's something I'm trying to work out.

Monday, 28 June 2010

'Loud music, played outdoors.'


I have a love/hate relationship with the British summertime tradition of loud music, played outdoors. Over the last five or so years the number of British music festivals and events has grown exponentially and we've seen the birth of festival fashion, which I can't stand. Wellies, fringing, tie-dye – nein danke.

However, at least once a year I try to put aside my misgivings and get down in the mud; always with a bed nearby, I don't do camping. On Saturday night we traipsed down to Hyde Park to see Stevie Wonder play to a heaving and dusty Hyde Park which was baking in the sun; the site itself was packed plus hundreds of people without tickets crowding outside to listen.

After getting over the initial disgust of stepping over ground in burgers, piles of beer bottles and drug casualties – not an easy task as I was wearing 6 inch wedges, essential for gigs if you're a shorty – Stevie came on and the whole park sang along joyfully as the sun went down. When you've got your hands in the air with thousands of other people singing along to 'For Once In My Life', you remember why you made the effort.

And with Glastonbury happening this weekend, it's a nice thought that thousands of people in Britain spent the weekend in the same way, in this beautiful baking sun we're enjoying at the moment. Sometimes you've just got to get over it and get involved.

[The picture above is of the crowd at Stevie. One of the best bits was when he played Happy Birthday and two people near us were celebrating their birthdays; they looked pretty happy as their friends danced around them in circles.]

[The title of this post was inspired by a friend of mine who I can remember snootily saying she would never go to carnival or a festival because she couldn't stand 'loud music, played outdoors,' which I found hilarious and do understand. But, just for the record, I LOVE carnival.]

Friday, 25 June 2010

Still missing MJ...

This documentary about Quincy Jones told the story of how he coached Michael Jackson to deliver this song perfectly, with the little quavery breakdown at the end. Sniff. I had first night tickets to see Michael perform at the set of concerts that were to prove too much for him to handle and eventually led to his death, a year ago today. Such a tragedy. RIP Michael.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

As You Like It.

In possibly my greatest football avoiding stunt yet, I went to the theatre yesterday at the precise time the England match was on, to see Sam Mendes' production of As You Like It at the Old Vic.

I'm not a theatre buff AT ALL and haven't watched any Shakespeare since school – although I've read a bit and do love that witty bard – so was slightly apprehensive about whether I was going to enjoy it. I generally share Paul McCartney's view on theatre. 'The only thing I get from the theatre is a sore arse.' Although that was in 1967. He's probably a complete luvvie, now.

Happily, whether it was Mendes' treatment of the play, or the actors abilities to make the verse seem so modern through their intonation and delivery, I don't know, but it was hilarious and a joy to watch. Stephen Dillane's performance as Jacques, the melancholy philosopher, was a particular treat as he rakishly channeled Bob Dylan and Elvis. And hot new Shakespearean actors on the block Christian Camargo and Juliet Rylance, who play lovers Orlando and Rosalind, are newly-weds in real life which added an interesting dynamic.

It was just a delight to hear Shakespeare's wit come alive, from his jibes at women 'Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak', through to Jacques famous and wonderfully cynical soliloquy, 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts...'.

Anyway, you know all about this, as you all know a lot more about theatre than me. So what I need you to tell me now is which Shakespeare productions I need to watch that are available on DVD. I don't really do period dramas so have completely missed out on this genre. I know you lot will know so please share!

[I got free tickets through See Film First, which I highly recommend signing up to for last minute cinema, music and theatre freebies.]

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Glitter shoes.

I'm a bit obsessed with glittery shoes at the moment. First, I saw the photos of a friend of a friend's wedding and the bride was wearing these amazing glittery Jimmy Choos. Then, I noticed Betty's glittery beatle boots, above; want, love, need. Now I'm seriously thinking I need to incorporate some glitter into my everyday shoe selection, seeing as I'm unlikely to be tripping down any aisles in princess shoes in the near future. These glittery TOMS are top of my glitter list.

Liking these glittery Converse, but they seem to be sold out at the moment.

And finally, the Giuseppe Zanotti glitter ankle boots, available from Net-a-Porter.

Perfect for adding a bit of easy sparkle to my usual day-to-day scruff. Plus all of these will look even better when kicked about a bit. There we are, purchase TOTALLY justified.

[Image with thanks to Blog de Betty]

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Jazz sunglasses.

I've fallen madly in love with Robert Roope's range of jazz inspired glasses and sunglasses, Black Eyewear. An avid jazz fan (and from Hull, like me - woop!), his glasses are inspired by and named after his jazz favourites. I mean, what a perfect idea. Jazz is the god-daddy of all that is cool so sunglasses and jazz = the perfect marriage. I love these, the Billie.

Or, inspired by the beautiful Julie London, the Julie.

A bit crazy but totally awesome: the Nina. I totally reckon I could pull these off in LA. And definitely in Vegas.

And for the boys: how about a pair of Coltranes or Monks? Totally jazzual. Buy all frames here.

[Spotted yesterday on the wonderful Mademoiselle Robot. Click through for her full profile on Robert Roope, his stories and inspiration. Thanks missus!]

Monday, 21 June 2010

Clinique All About Eyes Serum.

Any ex-party girl will tell you that some mornings you seriously need to cool, de-puff and soothe your sorry eyes. So I am LOVING Clinique's new All About Eyes Serum. It's basically a cooling gel with a rollerball applicator, so you can roll it soothingly over your eyes, massaging away, and then have a few blissful seconds to enjoy the cooling effects. And it leaves your eye area all shiny and smooth as if you were a mere 19 years old again and a stranger to life's cruel mores. More info and available to buy here.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Good juju.

I thought I'd post up some of the snaps I've taken with my phone over the last two months. It's funny to flip through your camera phone and see what you've been up to. At the bottom I've listed what they all are.











1. The view from the terrace at the Royal Festival Hall before the Gil Scott Heron concert.

2. Hoops and Fred hanging out.

3. Photo of a street sign I took in Amsterdam to remember which street the bike shop that ripped us off was on. But looking back, I like the photo and the tower reflected in the window.

4. 'Sky over Surrey'.

5. Battersea Power Station.

6. The Coconuts. (At the Kid Creole gig at the Barbican.)

7. This is a young Dutch jazzer whose band supported Mayer Hawthorne at Melkweg in Amsterdam. The dude with the 'bone had so much attitude and energy, he really whipped the crowd up. They were brilliant! And he just looks so cool with his 'bone.

8. Steely Dan graffitti in the loo at Smersh. I'm coming out of a big Steely Dan obsession at the moment.

9. My kind of place, The Rake in London Bridge.

10. Also at The Rake. I like the good juju sticker.

Have a great weekend peeps! x

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Cinnamon rolls.

I'm obsessed with cinnamon rolls at the moment. A friend of mine – from Doncaster but currently living in New York – recently mocked me for bringing them to a picnic, telling me I really need to be living in the States. Tell me about it. I'd love to. For a bit, anyway. (I am a complete yankophile, in case you hadn't realised.) They are in fact Swedish in origin, I should've told him. The Swedes even have an annual Cinnamon Roll Day. October 4th. I'm in.

They're basically rolled up leavened pastry, sweetened and spiced with plenty of sugar and cinnamon and then topped with either a plain drizzle of icing or a thick cream cheese smear. Or you can bake them upside down in a sugary pecan caramel. I love the idea of making a big disposable tray of them and then just wrapping it up and delivering the whole thing.

I'm holding off on making these at home, because I know I'd end up eating most of them. But the next time I have something to bake for, I'm making this recipe, as tried and tested by the Cotton Wife.

In the meantime, you can buy individual cinnamon rolls for 80p in Sainsbury's. Good to know for times of desperation. Like now. Bye!

[I literally can't see the word cinnamon with hearing Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young in my head. Here he is playing it at Hyde Park last year. I was at this gig; watch to the end to see him ABSOLUTELY ROCK IT DOWN TO THE GROUND. I've seen Neil play a few times now and every single time I wander in feeling pretty chilled out and leave feeling completely ROCKED OUT.]

Picture with thanks to Irina.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Banana Republic jewellery.

I met a friend on Saturday night who was wearing a beautiful and expensive looking antique gold bracelet. Banana Republic, said she, where she'd gone after admiring another friend's giant flower ring, also from there. Which sent me skittering to their site where I beheld many gorgeous things. In keeping with my peachy-coral obsession, I think I need the above giant coral ring. This mermaid cuff is also most covetable, as are these studded stackable rings. The prices aren't shown in Uke money on their website (although they have three London stores now), but are between $10-45, so definitely in the affordable bracket. (I'm going to hold out until I go to the States next month in the hope there will be a sale on!)

Monday, 14 June 2010

Wings of Desire.

I watched and really enjoyed Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire last week. The film is about two kindly-faced angels who live in the sky above Berlin and come down to comfort those in need; a lonely circus performer, a man who has just been in a serious accident, somebody getting ready to commit suicide. The dialogue is poetic; written by Peter Handke, it is based on the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

The cinematography is just stunning. It was shot by Henri Alekan, who apparently used a silk stocking that had belonged to his grandmother as a filter for the monochromatic sequences. Another fact: Solveig Dommartin, who played the rope performance artist, learnt how to do all the sequences herself in eight weeks, with no net.

The film is set just before the fall of the Berlin wall. I spent a lot of time in Germany at that time; our family used to get in the car, put a tent on top and drive there, touring around the Moselle and Rhine valleys, going to wine festivals and poking around small German towns. So the aesthetic of 1980s Germany is really familiar to me, especially the fashion. I was right there with my checked trousers, baggy snow-washed denim jacket, bouffant side-swept hair and giant walkman headphones!

Secret Cinema showed Wings of Desire recently, complete with recreated Berlin and trapeze artists. Pictures here, I'm sad I missed it.

[A great thing about not working at the moment is the utter freedom to follow any whim as soon as it hits; watch this film, pick up that book. But it has also made me realise how much I haven't read, seen or listened to. In Wings of Desire, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds do a show. I've never really listened to them. I've never read Rilke, I've not seen most of Wenders' other films... Don't you just sometimes feel overwhelmed by the huge voids in your own cultural knowledge? I used to find it impossible to even pick up a book when I was working, often. I was just too tired. Personal pledge to self: make the most of my time, read more, watch more, limit time spent drifting in daydreams: my personal bad habit!]

[Unsure who the pictures belong to! But thank you, whoever you are.]

Friday, 11 June 2010


I went along to a bar where some friends of mine were playing records last Friday night and one of them played this song, Peaceful, by Kenny Rankin. It sounded so lovely, I couldn't wait to play it again when I got home, and have subsequently played it all week. (In fact I set up a peaceful music playlist in Spotify, which you can listen to here, if you like.) I didn't realise Kenny Rankin was such a little hotty either. Always a bonus.

My peaceful playlist was timely as I had a slightly bum week. Nothing major, but I had my purse stolen from my bag whilst walking from a restaurant in Soho to Oxford Circus tube station, which was massively annoying. Luckily I'm insured so will hopefully get most of what I lost back. Anyway, here's hoping for a peaceful weekend for us all. With the sun out. And I s'pose I hope England beats the USA at the World Cup. Not that I'll be watching. I'm going to a birthday party in a pub tonight and hanging out with the ladies tomorrow. With maybe some lido-ing in between. Your plans? Have a good one! xx

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Sponsored post: BBC Summer Good Food Show.

It's so exciting to see the UK turn its reputation for bad food around. People you'd never expect turn out to be crazed foodies, everyone is obsessed with MasterChef, and more and more people shop thoughtfully and grow their own, thinking about where what they're putting on their plate has come from and how it has been treated.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Review: Tufnell Park Tavern.

Tufnell Park Tavern is a recently opened gastropub in my hood, occupying a huge building which has variously been a slightly dodgy late-opening bar and a jazz bar. It has been empty for a couple of years but excitement rumbled around the hood as renovations took place and signs went up proclaiming the soon-to-open Tufnell Park Tavern, under the same management as The Lansdowne.

We decided to try it out for my birthday meal. Unfortunately, birthday girl was to leave disappointed. The service was slow, which could be forgiven as it was only the first week of opening. But my food was terrible. And that is never forgivable. I had fresh garlic soup with a poached egg, but the soup was curiously flavourless considering its proclaimed garlic content and, even worse, it tasted of stale tap water. My main course was grilled halloumi skewers with green wheat and a marjoram dressing. First of all, I got three measly squares of halloumi. But worse, it was skewered with red onion which was basically raw. And the abundant bed of green wheat upon which the disappointing skewers were laid was unseasoned and with no dressing that I could discern. Which meant that for £9.50, I was eating raw onion, plain wheat and three bites of halloumi. Unimpressed.

Cheesecake dessert was OK, but how can cheesecake ever be wrong? James thought his food was passable, but he ordered steak which he 'only orders if there's nothing else on the menu he wants.'

At £75 for two, with a couple of drinks each, we felt pretty ripped off. Tufnell Park is prime gastropub territory, with a high percentage of local yummy families and yuppies who will be the bread and butter trade for this pub. When we visited it had only been open a week and you could tell it was people's first visit. The sound of people calculating the benefit to their house price with the presence of a smart pub like the Tufnell Park Tavern was practically audible.

I wonder whether they will see returning custom, though. The prices are steep for a neighbourhood joint and the food I had was definitely not worth the price tag. I have heard that the pizzas offered in the bar are wonderful, and I will probably go back and try those. And the deli and coffee bar looks relaxed and inviting, for weekend treats. But overall: fail.

[Pictures borrowed with thanks to everyday lifestyle.]

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Café Oto.

I've been meaning to post about Café Oto for a while. A laid-back café during the day, by night it hosts a brilliant roster of live music – jazz, folk, experimental – in an informal and intimate space. I visited a few Sundays ago to see a tribute to jazz drummer Steve Reid and enjoyed a really uplifting, special night of music. Situated in Dalston, it's sparse but cosy and serves a wide range of speciality beers, ciders and oddities such as Japanese whisky. It just has such a great vibe. Pictured above by day. And look what happens by night:

Far out. I've just booked tickets to go and see Sun Ra's Arkestra there. (Pictured above when they played in April.) Buy tickets here and see what else is coming up here.

[Pictures with thanks to DanMud and Alex Pink]

Monday, 7 June 2010

Union Jack biscuit tin.

I love the entire Emma Bridgewater Union Jack range, but especially this biscuit tin. It has to be one of the world's great bargains at only £13. Love the Truly Great bag for a fiver, too. The range would be fab for any upcoming patriotic events, can't think of anything though. Hmm. Nope...

(Anyone else sick to death of all the St George's crosses all over the place at the moment or am I just the original grumpy old woman?)

Friday, 4 June 2010


Dear blog. I can't lie. It is extremely sunny outside and I have gone to the lido. I'm sorry. But I feel I have to take advantage of the sun as we really don't get to see it much here in the Uke.

I'll be back next week and will try harder. I promise. Soz n that.

[Picture by Diana Stainton]

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Everything's peachy!


I'm worryingly into all things peach at the moment. Previously the preserve of mothers of the bride up and down this good land, I used to not even be able to abide the word. 'Peach'. But now, I can't get enough.

Clockwise from left: Whistles Peach Mini Leo Playsuit, Topshop Pussybow Tunic, EC One agate cuff, American Apparel High-Waist Denim Shorts, Topshop Unique Crystal sunglasses.

(Writing this really made me want to read James and The Giant Peach again. Lucky boy, what better way to spend a summer than marooned within a giant, sticky peach?)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

La Crêperie de Hampstead.

Hampstead Creperie
I recently complained on Twitter about putting on weight. 'Just weighed myself thinking I'd lost weight but I've actually PUT WEIGHT ON.' A little incident last week exemplified the kind of behaviour that might be to blame. I'd been strolling around Hampstead, wondering why I always go to Islington to shop and potter when Hampstead is closer to where I live, less busy, better chazzas, amusingly posh – I once saw Colin Firth and Princess Beatrice on the same night – and just nice for a change. Anyway, exhausted after a morning of gentle shopping (I had birthday monies to spend), I decided it was lunchtime. I eschewed the extremely tempting Paul bakery and instead got a good old prawn sandwich from Tesco for £1.35. (Yes, I know Tesco are evil and disgusting but I am po' at the moment.) Feeling smug and full of self-control, I wandered back to my bike, planning to eat my sandwich at the lido.

But then I saw La Crêperie de Hampstead and you can guess what happened next. This crêpe van has been in Hampstead for thirty years and is a bit of a local institution. I've managed to keep my crêpes to post-pub in the past, because I have to be drunk to rationalise eating fried buttery batter stuffed with cheese. But last week I could not resist the pull. I had a mushrooms and garlic cheese crêpe. I don't need to tell you that it was divinity in conical form. I'm going back for a crème de marrons one soon.

Hampstead Creperie

People sit on the doorsteps down the little lane next to the stand to eat. Must be annoying for the residents but I sat where these two were sitting as soon as they left.

Hampstead Creperie

My crêpe was so rich and satisfying, I didn't really want to eat anything else for the rest of the day. Those clever Frenchies have got the right idea by eating little but eating rich. I gave my prawn sandwich to the chatty lifeguard at the lido, then half-heartedly attempted to swim off my lunch crime.

La Crêperie de Hampstead is at 77 Hampstead High Street. Have a look at their full menu here.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

London Transport Original Signs.

Loving all the original London transport signs and ephemera that this site stocks. From beautiful brass and enamel roundel signs to a leaflet explaining how to get to Wembley for the 1966 World Cup games. And things aren't too crazily priced. Some of the bus destination blinds are pictured above; I've emailed to see if the Notting Hill Carnival sign is still available, so don't try to punk me, anyone! There are some good special occasion bus signs too; Whipps Cross Lido, anyone?