Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I know I’m a bit slow off the mark about the whole Stella at H&M thing. BUT most of the other blogs I read who mentioned it were not actually there at 10 am on the 10th of November. Noooo. They were in Kansas or Saskatchewan or somewhere thousands of miles away from an H&M looking at thumbnail pics of it on the internet and wishing, wishing…

I wasn’t there at 10 am either, I got there at 5 minutes past thinking ‘what does it matter, this is Bluewater, who the hell in Dartford/Essex has even heard of her? Ha, I am so sneaky! No one else will come here. It will be just like last year when I had the entire Karl Lagerfeld collection to browse at my leisure (Karl’s effort was un peu disappointing actually. That is a diplomatic way of saying it was boring and crap and probably took him about 3 minutes to design.)

I live in London but I thought I was SO CLEVER going all the way to Bluewater where usually you find all the sold out in London pieces languishing. So anyhoo, I strolled in to the sight of empty rails, a few size 18 bikinis left dangling, women with a mad gleam in their eye pouncing on others cast offs from the changing room. Most disturbingly I spied dodgy looking men, either husbands sent by their wives or professional ebayers stockpiling anything they could get their hands on. One man had 5 huge bags of clothes already and was grabbing anything else he could.

I almost walked out thinking I do not need more clothes that much. But then I realised if I took something, anything to the changing room I would be in just the right place to peruse the rail of clothes people had tried and not bought. Hysteria is contagious. So I stood in line for about 25 minutes with all the other Stellaholics – there was a strange kind of camaraderie, most un-British displays of strangers chatting about the collection, choosing to share changing rooms to save time, and one girl on a mobile phone relayed reports of how Oxford Street was ‘carnage’, people had camped overnight, 3 lorries had apparently been unloaded and the clothes sold before getting to the rails.

Finally I got to try on the three items I had managed to snatch in my size. A black silk tulip shaped skirt with a tuxedo waistband – great fabric and finish – sold! A bikini in my very favourite teal blue colour – sold! A pale pink satin wrapover dress was quite lovely and I was impressed that it was real silk satin but alas, it really did look like a bathrobe. Now of course the same dress is selling on ebay at 3 times the original price. See, I am just not business minded.

I must explain that on my birthday this year I wore what I thought (and still do think) was a beautiful silk satin grey dress with kimono sleeves by Danish designer Naja Lauf. A friend of a friend asked me in all seriousness if I was wearing a dressing gown and was I going to take it off to reveal my outfit? One was not amused and the experience has scarred one tremendously. It’s not easy being fashion forward sometimes you know.

I kept seeing people with some kind of knitted top which came in blue or pink with big long satin ties at the waist and cuffs. I knew this would be mine but I didn’t know how. I knew if I didn’t get it I’d have to go on a mission like the Vanessa Bruno dress mission, like the Gap skinny jeans mission, the Clinique black honey almost lipstick mission and then I would get obsessive and crazy and search every where until It. Was. Mine. But there were none left. There was none of nothing in fact.

Considering every other red blooded woman in Hennes that morning was exhibiting symptoms not seen since the gold rush fever of 1800 and something I didn’t feel the slightest bit of hesitation about lurking at the entrance of the changing rooms for ten minutes until a lady came out with said top. When I squawked ‘ooh that’s the top I want!’ she handed it to me and I was off. Off to the 45 minute queue to pay. After all the excitement and hysteria of the previous half hour fatigue had set in and the troops were restless. One woman said she’d gone into a trance like state. The man whose wife had already bought the whole bleedin’ collection 50 times over and who had positioned him in the till queue with the bags while she ran off to get more goodies began to get on my nerves.

I started to think about Krispy Kreme doughnuts whilst counting the inordinate number of Chloe Paddington and Mulberry tassel bags in the queue. I’m sure the sight of that will never be seen again in Bluewater. Unless of course H&M can cut a deal with Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquiere or Stella’s old mate Pheebs.


Just pondering - why is it that you can’t just walk into a shop and buy something anymore? Is it to do with the Chinese trade embargo thingy or is it just that I’m not as quick off the mark as I used to be? I can get my head around having to pre order something from Marni or Balenciaga for example, but in the last 2 weeks I have had Gap grey skinny cords tracked down and fedexed to me from customer services, and failed in my search for the elusive re-issue of Clinique’s Black Honey almost lipstick that I’ve been wearing for years. Every pair of jeans I have liked has only been in stock in either size 0 or size 16. All I want to do is purchase something from a high street emporium and how weird is it to go into Topshop and be told ‘sorry, sold out, they just flew off the shelves’. Aren’t they supposed to have a merchandise distribution type person who checks what’s selling and then a whole load of fresh new ones arrive the next day? I KNOW they have a person whose job it is to check these things.
My head hurts from thinking about clothes too much.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I have been having a problem liking London for some time. Well ok, about nine years.
Ever since I spent a blissful year living in Italy I have been suffering from ‘the grass is greener syndrome’. In short I have not really stopped bitching about the weather, the coffee, the cost of things, the food, the ugliness, the public transport system, the socialising (ie alcoholism), the men etc etc etc.
And every time I leave and return, it only adds fuel to the fire. I come home and compare London unfavourably to Rome or San Francisco or Paris or Copenhagen or anywhere really.

So, having had a conversation with my cousin recently where she was telling me about this psychology research guy who works on the basis that we filter everything to fit our preconceived notions, I decided to change my reality. Yes, I would go out on a quite sunny not too cold November morning and see the good in London. I would only allow myself to see the positive, to experience things that were pleasant and inspiring.

I headed off to my favourite coffee place, Monmouth Coffee in Borough market, where you can get a decent coffee and sit in nice industrial/rustic chic surroundings. On the way and needing something to read I forced myself to bypass Heat, Closer, New, Now and all the other gossip mags with headlines screaming of the ‘shocking weight loss’ of some C list celeb. Filling my brain with trash would not help. Well ok I had a peek. Old habits die hard. But I bought Time Out. I was going to scan those listings and find - so I thought, free poetry readings, art exhibitions, INSPIRATION!

The article I opened Time Out on was entitled ‘Is it just us, or is London rubbish?’ There followed four pages of fine print detailing all the things that pissed the writers off about the city. I found it quite restrained really, keeping to broad subjects such as the tube, areas of London they didn’t like, and annoying ‘meeeja’ types. I wonder how much they had to edit out.

So it seems I am not the only one who gets fed up to the back teeth with London.
I veer from strong feelings of absurd patriotism when confronted with disrespect towards the city, to really feeling quite down that the town where I was born and grew up in seems to have degenerated to the point where I don’t recognise it as the same place. Leaving seems like giving up. But the sheer energy and force of will required to simply get from A to B on a daily basis is enough to wear you out.

Time Out didn’t really mention the decision by our mayor to get rid of both red routemaster buses and black cabs despite opposition from literally everyone, thus eradicating two of the best known and loved emblems of our city. Would Paris stop illuminating the Eiffel Tower to save on lightbulbs? I don’t think so, and you can bet if they tried it, the people would demonstrate, being French.

Anyhoo I could rant all day long but today was supposed to be positive. So below in no particular order is my completely biased list of
Tate Modern
The spotty Damien Hirst boat that speeds between the two Tate Museums
All the parks and green spaces
Borough Market
Monmouth Coffee Company
R.D Franks magazine shop
Tower Bridge
The few of us Londoners actually still here are generally quite civil.
Waterloo International (I’m aware that I’m listing something as good because it’s a way of leaving the country. I still think it’s good.)
Waterstone’s in Piccadilly
Red Routemaster buses
Black Taxi’s even if they are extortionate
Free firework displays on bonfire night
Homeless Big Issue vendors who smile and say ‘have a nice day’ even when you don’t buy one.

I just can’t think of anything else.

Somebody once said when you’re tired of London you’re tired of life.
I’d like a nice lie down in a hammock by the Seine please. I’m tired.

Ricky Gervais also once said, when asked what advice he’d give to tourists when visiting London; ‘Either move faster or get out of my fucking way.’