Thursday, November 30, 2006


I had an irresistible craving for some Le Pain Quotidien praline spread today which is just about my favourite thing in the world and I haven't had it for ages, not having been in Paris for a while. I suppose it's my Starbucks, I know I'll always get a good coffee there - which makes it nothing like Starbucks but you know what I mean. I've actually been quite disappointed by the LPQ branches in London so far. The one in Marylebone is really noisy and always full of botoxed eurotrashy ladies who lunch. The one under the arches at Waterloo would be nice if it weren't for the trains thundering overhead and the water dripping from the ceiling. I haven't been to the one in Kensington because I have absolutely no reason to go to Kensington ever. I hadn't tried the one in Great Marlborough Street, almost opposite Liberty and the entrance to Carnaby Street, which has been open now for a month or so. It's big and in a modern building which usually makes the whole rustic styling thing a bit hard to swallow, but somehow it works. Their coffee is fairtrade and organic and they have free wi-fi so I totally forgive them for being a chain. Anyway I had a lovely time there, me and my big bowl of coffee and a basket of bread with ALL the chocolate spreads to choose from. I felt like I was in Paris. (I know LPQ is Belgian but I always go there when I'm in Paris.) Then afterwards the shop I wanted to go to was unexpectedly shut at 2pm on a Thursday and I really did feel just like I was in Paris.

But Beyond the Valley was open. It's such a nice little shop because not everything is super expensive, they have quirky bits and pieces too, all very well chosen. I love the little matchbooks with "call me" written on perforated squares of paper and the mini books by Lucy May Schofield. And they had the Donna Wilson knitted doughnut that I just really, really needed to buy for someone.

And they also had the necklace by Kyo Hashimoto I've been lusting after but felt sure I wouldn't find anywhere.

The black and white one, ain't it purty? I'd love to have it but at about half the price they're selling it for in the shop.

And then of course I ended up in Selfridges where the Benefit girls got me again. They see me coming a mile off, all haggard and dehydrated; weighed down with shopping bags (of Christmas cards but they don't know that). They entice me to their stools with silky tones inviting me to take the weight off, let us make you feel better, and then you know the rest. I am wearing more products on my face than I have all year and I look suspiciously healthy. I also have another eye cream but two new products in one year isn't that bad really is it, when they're able to work that glowy light reflecting magic on me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Today seems to be the day for blogging as subject. I don't question it that much, in the way that I don't question the volumes of sketchbooks and morning pages I have stashed away all over the place that most people in my 'real life' have no idea about. It's just something I do and always have done, except someone went and invented blogging which is the perfect medium to express, as Alicia says in such a perfect way, my need to "lurch about saying this or that, whatever it is." The only times I've ever felt any negative feelings about what I consider a necessary part of my life are the thankfully rare occasions when someone I know in the scary non internet world, who I know doesn't get who I am or where I'm coming from and does not have my best interests at heart or at anywhere, mentions casually that they have "read my blog a couple of times". This is presented with no further comment or discussion which, depending on the person can make me feel as if they have stolen a key to my house, come in and taken a shit in the corner of my living room and left quietly, perhaps making some kind of snidey quip to their accomplice about my choice of soft furnishings on the way out. It's hard to continue to write freely when my safe little world has been invaded. As much as I hate to admit it, it makes everything I write a bit stilted and self conscious for a while until I can get back on my feet and truly believe it when I say (silently) "I'm not doing it for you and I don't give a shit what you think." Sorry if this is all a bit cryptic, and may sound like I'm taking it all a leeetle bit too seriously but in order to express myself again I must ahem, express myself.

What has consistently amazed and thrilled me since starting this blog is that I now know THERE ARE OTHERS LIKE ME; people somewhere out there in the world who like the things I like and seem to understand what I'm going on about, even if it's just macaroons or shoes and when I don't know myself half the time.


Almost exactly two years ago I interviewed photographer Francois Brunelle and wrote an article about his project, 'I'm not a look-a-like.' Have a look at the photos on his website, you won't believe these people aren't related.

The craziest, spookiest thing about it all is that when the look-a-likes meet - often for the first time in the studio, they invariably discover other similarities. There have been cases of people turning up wearing their own everyday clothes and not only having features that resemble the other but the same style, even the same tattoo. Once they start chatting during the shoot they often find they have similar life stories; one couple discovered they were born at the same time on the same day thousands of miles apart.
Here's the text from my article which was published in the Metro newspaper back in December '04.

Francois Brunelle collects look-a-likes the way other people collect rare stamps or butterflies. For the past three years he has travelled the world seeking out and photographing pairs of people for his forthcoming book and exhibition entitled ‘I’m not a look-a-like’. The starkly beautiful black and white portraits capture two strangers meeting a mirror image of each other for the first time. We all think we are unique, but this book proves it’s entirely possible that somewhere in the world there’s another ‘you’. It’s elevation of the ordinary person, or persons in the street to something special, all by virtue of the fact that they have a double.
So far Brunelle has photographed around 100 pairs of look-a-likes world wide, some of whom have been mistaken for their double for 20 years. Now he is seeking look-a-likes here in the U.K. Brunelle doesn’t mind whether his subjects are famous or not, as someone who is recognisable in his native Montreal would be unknown in England and vice versa. He says, ‘It’s not about celebrities, it’s about looking like other people.’ If you have a look-a-like and/or are interested in being part of the project, you can apply online here.

As the first (ahem - that's FIRST) person in the U.K to have written about it, it's very exciting for me to see how the project has gained such momentum globally and now here, with articles in many of the major British newspapers over the last few weeks. Tomorrow at 9am Francois will appear on LK Today (ITV) to talk about the project. He still wants to photograph another sixty pairs for his book to be completed and I know he would love some from the U.K to participate.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I seem to be in another time zone lately. I wake up late, can't stomach anything to eat until around three in the afternoon, then I'm ready for supper at the time everyone else is going to bed around here. I can't believe I must go to bed before two in the morning, but where can I go when everything closes at eleven? Maybe it's a delayed reaction to Barcelona.

I have also, I.just.cannot.believe. been getting excited about the third Thursday of November, even though I'm not in Paris - only to realise that today is in fact the FOURTH Thursday of November and I should have been swigging happily a whole week ago. So today is Thanksgiving I believe in the U.S. It's easy to get your dates mixed up when they're not really yours.

I've been valiantly holding off on the old "I really miss Paris" nostalgia trip for the whole of October and now most of November. Did you know I spent the whole of last October there, meeting poets and artists, discovering the whole "so THIS is how it's supposed to be done" of Paris fashion week and fairly skipping along the street to the bakery each morning as if I really actually lived there and knew how to carry the bread in a casual manner? Of course you do. It seems like a dream now, although it wasn't my first trip to Paris and by no means my last, that particular month had a magic about it I've never since been able to replicate on subsequent visits.
I received some kind of grace or luck during that time, bloody well brimming with joy was I.

So here goes, I'll indulge myself this once: every colour of macarons, place des Vosges, the nice waiter at Camille, ridiculous pooches in the street and cats on windowsills, La Seine at every time of day or night, rue St Paul, sitting in cafes for hours, buttery croissants, un quart at l'estaminet, gorgeous shops, 'my' little bit of the 3rd, the French guy who looks but doesn't perv, breakfast at Le Flore-cliched but good, Centre Pompidou bookshop, tartine, the artistry of florists, flanerie, Jardins du Luxembourg, popping into one of the APCs, Bonjour Mademoiselle, poetry readings, FROMAGE, Assouline bookshop and La Hune and..., 100 exhibitions to choose from, the water running along the gutters in the morning, sheets cleaned at the laundry, apero, cafe, cafe, cafe.
I miss you.

Cat Town via Cosmic

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Maitre d' at The Wolseley: Good afternoon Madam, how may I help you?

Me: Hello, I'll just sit in the salon there because I'm waiting for a friend.

Him: May I take your name?

Me: Oh, I don't have a reservation, I'm just waiting for a friend.

Him: And what is his or her name?

Me: Oh, he doesn't have a reservation either.

Him: *exasperated* If you give me his name I will be able to direct him to you.

Me: Oh, he's called Benjamin Braddock.

Him: And your name is?

Me: My name is Bonnie Parker.

He shows me to a table. I am still perplexed about the necessity of the name thing. I await *Benjamin...Another customer is shown to the table where the rest of his party are.
Maitre d': *Jubilantly in booming voice* MONSIEUR . HAS . ARRIVED!


Sunday, November 19, 2006


I took Duckie for a spin to the Midcentury Modern design fair held in the 60s dinner hall at Dulwich College boys' school.

What I really wasn't expecting when I tootled up was first of all to bump into and almost drive over an old friend who it turns out is getting married next week - it always freaks me out when people tell me they're getting married, in all sincerity it's such an alien concept to me. But good luck to them!
And then to see the other folk who'd come to fawn over Danish rosewood sideboards and Cherner chairs. Well, my attempts to interest anyone I knew in this as a day out were a resounding failure, although I did present the opportunity in a somewhat defeatist manner. Like "Oh yeah there's this thing, you probably don't want to go, no, probably not your sort of thing, ok, fine don't worry about it." But haha! I joined a motley assortment of arty chic young, hip things with apartments to furnish and an aching nostalgia for the latter part of the 20th century. All dressed as if on their way to Brick Lane (for want of a better place), not a furniture fair in South East London. If the Sartorialist had been there he would have been kept busy snapping all afternoon. As it was I kept tripping over various film crews.

As well as furniture there were ceramics and smaller items for sale like Lisa Stickley's printed tea towels, ceramics from People Will Always Need Plates and Donna Wilson's super cute knitted creations which were cleverly suspended like a giant interactive mobile for grown ups. I gotta get me one o' them there doughnuts. Yum. And slimming.

As for the furniture itself, it was mostly of the "Bugger it, I bet my dad's thrown those curtains/that coffee table/ that Midwinter pottery away variety, and confirmed that I am not insane for wanting to have my inherited (no one else wanted it) 60s Heal's dining table refinished for roughly the same price as a new table would be.

In the collectables section was a great selection of Russell Wright American Modern ceramics in the signature soft sludgy pastel palette that's become so collectable I didn't dare look at the prices.

Although when I left, my bag did mysteriously contain a Lisa Stickley teatowel and some drinks coasters from Ella Doran; had I bought them four years ago I wouldn't have ruined the aforementioned table in the first place.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Panicking, panicking, oh just ever so slightly. Sorry to be a cliched English person and talk about the weather - and I said sorry too, there's another one. It occurred to me yesterday that it's only the middle of November and we still have December, January, February and if the last few years are anything to go by March as well, in which we are treated to the shittiest weather that ever did exist. Well maybe not, but it's the familiarity of it that gets to you. And the dampness, which gets into your bones. At least now the trees still have leaves, turning the most amazing colours, which against a steel grey sky is pretty spectacular. I'm drawn to the leaves that are bright vivid yellow on trees with sodden trunks and branches registering to the eye as black. But soon the leaves will fall...
I don't mind cold and snowy, that's often accompanied by dry and sunny. But day upon day of rain; dark, dark skies, constant drizzle, drivel, miserable, blaeeurgh. It is this time of year when London living foreign friends who moved here for the buzz and the raw energy on da street (especially those who moved here in the spring) start saying things like;

"But ho my Gaahd, this is really it is unbelievable you know, I am really in DEpress now. Hevvery day, hevvery day it is raining and then there it is no sun, just rain, rain, rain. So November is worst month in London yes?"

Should I lie to make them feel better? Why get their hopes up. You need a survival strategy. A good plan is to LEAVE THE COUNTRY at regular intervals throughout the winter. Actually an English winter is only bearable if you live in a quaint old house in the countryside with an open fire and a cosy village pub that also has an open fire. My radiator and my local nouveau gastro bar or whatever we're supposed to call it aren't quite having the requisite effect.

I take comfort in flashes of colour: the trim of my colour combo genius Orla Kiely steel blue cardi with one mustard coloured cuff, the other coral pink. Petrol blue shoes. A brightly coloured blanket to trail around like Linus from Charlie Brown.
Smells and flavours too: Kiehl's Original Musk Oil is warm and comforting. My pumpkin and sage risotto (Vialone Nano rice of course Mia) with feta cheese and lemon olive oil. Spanish orange macaroons (Nigella). Candles everywhere in the daytime. I'm in my living room and it's just as dark at 3pm in here as it would be at night.

My furry alarm clock failed me this morning and gasp! the furry one and I stayed snuggled up in bed until ten to eleven which was quite shocking since I had an appointment at ten. Oops. What an excuse - it was dark so I couldn't see the time, and my cat was cold so she didn't wake me, choosing bodily warmth over breakfast.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


...Barcelona of course.

I am failing dismally in my attempts to stave off post trip depression. It doesn't help oh cold, rainy English climate that last Friday I was wafting around wearing just a cotton shirt (and jeans, shoes and underwear of course), and that on Sunday I could have (if I'd had my cossie) happily gone for a swim in the sea.
Straight back into mundanity today and no I cannot go out for dinner at midnight should I so desire. I cannot begin my evening's social activities at 1am, and the checkout girl at Tesco's today did not call me guapita or carinya (scuse the spelling?) And why does my train ticket home from Gatwick cost £7 for a single when the train into Barcelona from the airport costs 2.40 euros for a longer journey?
Yes it's my favourite comparison game. Poor England almost always loses.

Oh, but I did have a lovely time. It was too short really and I know I'll be back. So easy to pop over with sleazyjet for a weekend of partying. My hermit tendencies vanished as soon as I was able to stroll everywhere without being buffeted by wind and rain. We went out 'til the small hours every night. It took me roughly one day to acclimatise to having a relaxing 'early' evening drink/dinner at home, then going out at around 12. A nap the next afternoon and it seems you have double the time in each day.

I must say it was clever of my cous and her beau to find a flat bang slap in the heart of El Born (overlooking the Passeig del Born) where all the cool little bars and shops are and a mere three minutes walk from my other Barcelona friend Ester Pastel's flat. They may now be wishing they'd plumped for the suburbs as since they moved there six months ago they have had friends to stay every weekend, poor loves. But this also makes them expert hosts so really they are now doomed to my regular visits.

Now, about my usual diligent note taking and recommendations...
I bought a Moleskine Barcelona City Notebook and was all set to use it to create the ultimate guide to BCN. When I arrived shortly after midnight on Thursday evening we went out for drinks at various bars in the neighbourhood. My recollection of this, as faithfully recorded in the Bars, Wineries, Stories section of the city guide is as follows:

Glass goldfish bowls of cocktail mixes on bar, cosy, pint of armagnac, Passeig del Born. Also other on corner poss gay bar, bit Blue Oyster, Italian guy.

It could be like a game. You go to Barcelona and try every bar in El Born until you recognise those two from my description. Or even better - you could take me with you and I'd guide us there.

Same with the shops. There was a shop I absolutely loved called Zhu Zha (or maybe it was Zha Zhu) that had the most amazing clothes by young Catalan designers that were so well made, inside and out that I could almost justify the prices (not a penny less than you'd pay in London). I wanted to go back but it was always closed, as was pretty much every shop I liked the look of whenever I was passing. Zhu Zha was my favourite by far though, so here are my comprehensive directions:
Stand in the middle of the Passeig del Born with the Basilica on your right hand side. Go down one of the little side streets in front of you then turn left into the street parallel with the Passeig which I think might be called Carrer de l'Esparteria. It's on this street on the right hand side. No website, no linkage, can't remember any of the names of the designers either. Trust me, you'll love it!
At the end of this street in Carrer del Rec is this shop which sells chic vetements from the likes of Vanessa Bruno et al:
As if the bargain Manolos weren't enough to incite envy! I try to console myself with the fact that there is a brand of Spanish clementines called Lolita.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I'm sneaky aren't I, going away without telling you. I'll be back properly tomorrow after a good long snooze.
Until then, three guesses where I've been...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The photographers I admire all capture beauty in the everyday detritus of life, urban or otherwise. I unfortunately have to accept that my own photographic eye is drawn to big, blowsy, universal beauty. Of the Kodak moment variety. And loves, I'm afraid I must inflict some more sunsets upon you; though not of the Parisian variety.

Can you believe that all this is within a half hour drive of London (at least if you drive as fast as my friend does.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006


"I'm sure he'll be an important couturier."


Just call me a big old party pooper. Or just old. Saturday night and I cannot bring myself to wrap up warm and trek to a Bethnal Green pub "where Vincent Vincent and the Villains used to play" which is I expect what most pubs in that area that host live music would like to have you believe - that or "Pete Doherty was here a couple of weeks ago - he fell over and Kate sang."

I feel bad though, one of the guys that's playing is a friend, practically family but my winter agoraphobia has set in and I'm so, so tempted to stay in and watch Parky snuggled under a blanket on the sofa. Last week Kate Winslet cried, Jude Law looked shifty and sounded a bit pretentious, and Parky got Justin Timberlake visibly shocked and embarassed by asking him what kind of music he had sex to. I mean how can you beat that for a Saturday night?

The thing about going out, especially on a Saturday night (I sound like such a grouchbag but I feel quite happy to have come to this conclusion) is that I always end up thinking "Is that it then?" The whole getting ready and going somewhere to stand around and er, do what exactly? Maybe it's because I don't drink as much as I used to but I always feel a bit disappointed and detached, the old alone in a crowd syndrome. Obviously if I join in the drinking these thoughts (or any) don't come into it. But I don't know how some of my friends can still want to go out every Friday and Saturday night and get wasted without fail or question in the same way they have for fifteen or twenty odd years. And they think I'm weird for not wanting to.

Oh my God, is this why people have babies, for something else to do? Not a good enough reason people! Well since my biological clock seems to have no battery and every time I'm handed someone's baby to hold I have to fake the whole joy thing, all the while thinking "How long do I have to keep this up until I can hand it back?" (With one exception, that means you my little mate Boo) It seems I am as usual the odd one out. I feel OK about this but it's really hard to explain to other people.

Actually I love going out for dinner (but nobody in my circle goes out for dinner before the drinking) and I love seeing a good film but um, I prefer to do that in the week when it's less busy. It's not like I'm looking down my nose at my friends who are stuck in the weekend social pattern because I'm going to the opera or anything, though I admit to feeling a tad annoyed - ok smug as well, when they can't get up until 4pm on a Saturday or Sunday.

Tonight the sky is full of fireworks as we celebrate *Guy Fawkes night (which is officially tomorrow). Ten minutes from here is one of the biggest firework displays in the country at Blackheath. I reeaaally don't like it. Actually it's not the fireworks themselves that scare me, it's the people. I've been to this display a number of times, bought a duff sparkler, oohed and aahhed like I'm supposed to, fought my way through the crowds to a pub I don't like afterwards, after major logistical planning with no mobile phone signal managed to get a round of drinks in and stand on the heath in the cold saying things like "yeah it was quite good, not as good as last year though." Fireworks are going off all around as I write - of the even scarier back garden amateur dad variety. It sounds like a war zone out there. Little Loly is most perturbed.

* I leave it to these people to explain the origins of Guy Fawkes night to those possibly not familiar with it - hi Kazakhi reader!

I was once asked with a knowing smirk, by my Italian teacher, to explain this tradition to my united nations of a class. In Italian. I blabbed and burbled about gunpowder and the intricacies of being hung, drawn and quartered as my teacher continued to quiz me like a prosecuting lawyer. "And then you make effigies of this man and set fire to him on a large bonfire don't you? And you all dance round it."

Thursday, November 02, 2006


The other day at the end of a styling job I took myself to Liberty to decompress. Trundling up to the top floor in the wood panelled lift and working my way slowly round and round, back down to the ground floor. I never really buy anything major there, I just trail around admiring the whimsical displays - they must have so much fun thinking them up. I'm sure I saw a dressmaker's dummy covered in china teacups. I waft through the furniture department, marvel at glassware and stop before one of those bunch of grape blown glass chandeliers I've always hankered after. It's quiet, the music there is never too loud.

I scan all the bolts of fabric, touching all of them. Liberty print fabric reminds me of my lovely granny. When I was little she used to make me cotton dresses, and knit cardigans. Oh to have those now, or anything made for you by hand with love for that matter. The dresses were liberty print and I get a strong sense memory from some of the fabrics.

In the haberdashery department I buy a few bits and bobs, a round Liberty print sewing box is tempting but I pass, then take ten minutes to choose the colour yarn I'm drawn to most. The lady at the counter is a sweetheart, calling me pet and darlin' in her Geordie accent, fussing round me good naturedly making sure I've got everything I need. I feel the tense foot tapping "fucking hurry up" stance from doing bulk returns in Topshop and Selfridges drain away.

As it's winter I'm nesting so I spend ages in the bed linen department trying to justify the price of a Descamps pillowcase. I can't stop thinking about a bolt of petrol blue mohair and wonder if I should buy a metre to put on the end of my bed. I overhear a member of staff talking the ear off an American tourist, telling her all about the origins of Liberty, how the company made its name importing artisanal goods from Asia; she relayed the story as if it were her own family history.

By the time I make my way down the wooden stairs (does anyone else ever stop and think how amazing those wooden stairs are?) after skidding quickly through contemporary collections and shoes, I am fully relaxed. In the vintage bit they have a Kelly bag on sale for £2,500. I kick myself again for not bidding on the one I saw at Christie's.

A quick squirt of Creed in the perfume room and a drool over Jean Rouget stationery but I can't decide on a colour so I buy a sheet of wrapping paper. Along with my yarn and an embroidery hoop that's all I need. Maybe some flowers but the flower seller in the entrance vetoes anything I pick out as "not very lovely at the moment" picking at them sadly as if he couldn't possibly sell them in that state. They look absolutely fine to me but I'm grateful for his honesty.

Back outside in the twilight I try to keep the Mary Poppins vibe alive by avoiding Oxford Street and instead wend my way through the back streets of Mayfair.