Friday, 25 November 2011

The Prettiest Pub in the World

               London, 1888. Not an inviting vision, is it. Jack the Ripper roams at night, rather irritated by the women and children falling on the streets, drunk on 90 proof gin. The London 'pea soupers' cough when they exit their dim factories, further irritated by the whistlers. The middle classes cover every inch of their wallpaer with pictures, irritated that they haven't been invited to any parties for the upcoming Season. Londoners deserved a respite. It was known as The Pub. If they discovered the Princess Louise in Holborn, life was much, much prettier.

Inside, golden light dances off of the etched glass gilt mirrors that are everywhere, the marble, the shiny mahogany, the electric lights, the mosaic floors and the leather.

(Note the Cockney hilarity.)

Its trademark is that it still has the Victorian rooms preserved, small areas to close the door on people you don't like.

If you're in London, go to the Princess Louise to understand how even Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, became a flirt. You'll find Sam Smith's pub prices wonderfully un-London (i.e. cheap). If you're a man, the toilets are rather legendary for being craved marble sculptures.

The image below is a corridor. Victorians, fortunately, didn't quite get minimalism.

Friday, 18 November 2011

How to Be a Woman

        To clarify, How To Be a Woman is not about applying red lipstick, putting on some killer heels, icing some perfectly cute cupcakes and attracting men with your feminine mystique. This is a guide to laughing at the absurdity of our culture and embracing feminine strength. And it's really, really worth reading.

You may have noticed how this book is categorised as 'HUMOUR/FEMINISM.' Although this may seem a contradiction to some people, in the eyes of the gifted comic writer Caitlin Moran, she manages to make you laugh and open your mouth in shock as you think to yourself, 'Did she really just write that?'

How To be a Woman follows Moran's experiences in 'becoming' a woman, from her 13th birthday, when she's chased and teased for being fat, to the present, where she is a successful columnist hanging out with Lady Gaga and having to do fashion shoots for her columns. Tough life, I know.

Feminism is still as much of a dirty word as it ever has been. It still suffers from the stereotype that feminists are annoying women who can't stop complaining. Moran demonstrates that a feminist can be your cooler friend with a wicked sense of humour and life experience. She's had time to articulate how a lot of women feel: that the social expectations for women are ridiculous, so just laugh at them and get on with your life, as you probably do.

The book generally has the feel of overhearing her conversations with her best girlfriends after a few drinks and then reading her diary afterwards. But it's not a groaning emotional journey that you'll tire of, as she uses her life to explore formative experiences in any woman's life. For example, she writes about getting through the awkward stage when women want men to notice them, marriage, fashion, and having children or not having children.

I'd really recommend this book for yourself and as a present for your best female friends. It might be slightly graphic for your Mum though.

Please let me know if you have any book recommendations for me. I'm typically at least a year behind in reading anything that other people might have read. And I like rockstar biographies.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Playing Autumn

At least once a year, you need to get into a leaf fight. I call it playing autumn. The days are running out, the leaves are becoming damp, and the time is nigh. Play it in the next couple weeks and you'll feel like you're 5 years old, in a brown boots ad or an American university photo shoot.

A couple of classic spins as leaves were being thrown up in the air...

Leaves have just been picked up at this moment, ready to fall aloft onto the photographer.

Top (I'm crazy about the scalloping and and Johnny Cash style ribbon), New Look. The sweetly feminine Zoella definitely inspired this one:
Leather skirt, local charity shop. The skirt's long enough to feel preppy and grown-up, as opposed to a black leather skirt that's perfect for meeting Axl Rose on the Sunset Strip, circa 1986.
Cute and wonderfully ridiculous spats, Asos. With these sorts of two-tone brogues, you'll either have the urge to become a fat 1930s gangster who is really just a sax player, or inherit a poodle skirt and become an extra on Happy Days. Both options are rather great.  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Apples Begone

You know when you have a inexplicable influx of a certain thing and you feel the need to get rid of them. Right now I'm in the middle of this cull with apples. I realise they look innocent, pretty and even decorative in the photo. Romantic sensibilities get thrust aside when they start to ferment, deteriorate and generally take up space that you don't have. This is exacerbated by the fact that my husband suffers from rubbish guilt-- he really hates throwing food out. But even if you weren't facing an unwanted apple invasion, this pie is beautiful. Apple and pecan pie. It's healed my bruised relationship with apples. 

Steve's Apple and Pecan Pie:

3 large apples, chopped into small pieces
2-3 generous handfuls of sultanas
4 tablespoons syrup or honey (Steve used rosehip syrup that I'd made but any I'm sure will have the sweet effect)
pastry case or make your own pastry if you're more noble or skilled than I sometimes have the patience for
1 tbsp of brown sugar to sprinkle over the top
3-4 handfuls whole pecans or however much you want to decorate the pie

1. Stew apples, sultanas, sugar and spices over low heat for about 10-15 minutes so they're softened. Add water so they don't burn as you're cooking them.
2. Spoon mixture into pastry crust. Sprinkle brown sugar to give it some dazzle.
3. Decorate with pecans.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes at 360/180 C/gas mark 5.
5. Eat and feel righteous.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Woolen Warmth

Part of Coco Chanel's clothing philosophy was less is more. I rarely ascribe to this admirable dictat. In the film Coco Avant Chanel (2009), Coco is at a ball. All the women are wearing elaborate Edwardian dresses. She opts to design herself a simple black dress and we're supposed to think she's the chic belle of the ball for it. The director should have had my sympathies. I like the modern sensibility Coco Chanel and her designs were supposed to embody. But the problem was, I really like the embellished, frou-frou, fabric laden gowns that represented the status quo she was reacting against. I would be delighted if these fashions were part of my society (outside of wedding gowns).   
Image from

Coco Chanel allegedly said that 'before you leave the house, take one thing off." It was in this spirit of letting the clothes and the fabric speak for itself that I chose not to add a necklace, some fanciful earrings, a scarf, or a belt (I almost wish I did later) to my outfit. Helpfully, you can also use her idea when you're low on time. What would Coco Chanel do? That's right, stop getting ready and just go.

I was actually weaing three different kinds of wool on this day. Gasp. I love the poppy red of the blazer and its channeling of English Edwardian fox hunting heritage. Fortunately or unfortunately, a blazer on its own doesn't make one part of Downton Abbey. Fortunately, it also doesn't have any of the more brutal foxhunting connotations and class divide that accompanied Edwardian times.

There's a wondrous quality to nobbly knits that makes me wam. Coco Chanel would probably think the combining of cables, diagonal knits and checks was far too much. But then she didn't know much about blustery, damp England in 2011. Vive la difference. Winter, bring it on. The wools been broughten.

Outfit: Poppy blazer and pleated check trousers, Marks and Spencer. Black short sleeved cable jumper, Forever 21, acrylic sadly.